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On This Date in Sports August 4,1993: Don't Mess With Nolan

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Nolan Ryan was in his final season with the Texas Rangers after 27 years in the majors. However, Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox was not ready to salute him as he charged the mound after being hit on the elbow in the third inning. Ryan caught Ventura, got him in a headlock, and proceeded to deliver a series of punches to the head. Ryan was not ejected and earned a win as Texas won 5-2.

Nolan Ryan was born in Refugio, Texas, on January 31, 1947. A hard-throwing right-hander, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 1965 draft. Just a year later, Ryan made his debut on September 11, 1966. The early years saw Ryan as a raw talent that often did not know where he was throwing the ball, as he dealt with chronic blisters while with the Mets. Nolan Ryan did play a vital role in the Mets miracle run to the 1969 World Series Championship. Still, he was traded to the California Angels after 1971 for Jim Fregosi, posting a 29-38 record in five seasons.

With the California Angels, Nolan Ryan found his grove thanks to pitching Coach Jimmy Reese, who helped harness the wild, untamed heater. With the Angels, Ryan threw four no-hitters in three years and set the single-season record for strikeouts with 383 in 1973. After eight years in Anaheim, Nolan Ryan returned to the Lone State, signing a record-breaking deal with the Houston Astros before the 1980 season. Ryan added his fifth no-hitter in Houston and became the first pitcher with 4,000 strikeouts in 1985. After nine years in Houston, Nolan Ryan moved north to the Texas Rangers, adding two more no-hitters and reaching 5,000 strikeouts and 300 wins. After 27 years, Nolan Ryan decided that 1993 would be his final season as he was saluted in every ballpark in the American League.

A year after Nolan Ryan made his first appearance with the Mets, Robin Ventura was born on July 14, 1967, in Santa Maria, California. Ventura first gained notoriety at Oklahoma State when he set the NCAA record with a 58-game hitting streak in 1987. A year later, he was the tenth overall pick by the Chicago White Sox. After making his debut at the end of the 1989 season, Ventura became part of the core of a rising team on the south side of Chicago, making the All-Star team in 1992.

As the Texas Rangers hosted the Chicago White Sox, the two teams were battling for first place in the American League Central. The Rangers, managed by Kevin Kennedy, entered the game in third place with a record of  53-53, trailing the first-place White Sox led by Gene Lamont by five and a half games. The game started poorly for Ryan as Chicago scratched in two runs in the first inning, with Robin Ventura driving in Joey Cora. At the same time, Matt Merullo scored an unearned run on third baseman Dean Palmer’s error on a grounder off the bat of Steve Sax. While Alex Fernandez made quick work of the Rangers over the first two innings, Ryan began settling in. He retired Merullo to start the inning in the third inning before plunking Ventura on the elbow. The White Sox third baseman feeling it was purposeful, charged the mound and was caught by Ryan, who, despite being 20 years older, showed that he still could handle his own in a fight. Adding insult to injury, Robin Ventura was the only player ejected, as Nolan Ryan pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits with five strikeouts. 

In the sixth inning, the Rangers' offense came alive, as Doug Strange led off with a single and scored on a two-run game-tying home run by Rafael Palmeiro. Juan Gonzalez followed with a single and scored on a Julio Franco double. After a sacrifice bunt by Ivan Rodriguez, Franco scored on a Dean Palmer single, with Dan Peltier capping the five-run rally with an RBI double. The Rangers would go on to win 5-2, as Tom Henke earned the save, with Ryan improving to 3-3 on the season.