Spring Traing Baseball...I love it

Even if it's only on TV.
I'm watching the Rangers clobber the Reds by a couple dozen runs in a game that means nothing. The Reds played a combination of their AA and AAA teams, and the Rangers play something very similar to an opening day lineup. The broadcasters bluntly call it an insult to the fans and the Rangers to put out a minor league team, and the fun starts.
To some folks, it's a game to turn off. But we know this is the time for broadcasters to shine with "behind the scenes" stories.
Rangers' color commentator, and former catcher, Eric Nadel delivers a few gems, as the camera pans the crowd, and finds Nolan Ryan. (Suspend journalistic quotation rules, this is from the best of my memory.)

"Ya know what makes the great ones great is that they never stop. When Nolan was with the Rangers, he had pitched for 20 years. He could have quit, and still made the Hall of Fame. Little did we know, he'd pitch another seven years.
"The guy would pitch six or seven innings, then run the stairs in the Rangers' office building. Up and down. Up and down, until the game was over.
"Then he'd sign autographs in the parking lot for an hour or so on the way home.
"I remember one spring the team brought down 40 big sponsors for spring training. The special treat was that they got to hit on the major league field. Now they could have hit against a pitching machine, but Nolan Ryan pitched to them. One ad exec clearly had not seen a bat in years, so of course, Nolan lobbed him a few. But then a guy steps into the batter's box, taps the mud out of his cleats, and shows Ryan he's ready for business. Ever the competitor, Nolan lights up the 97 mph fastball."
If I haven't told you before, after 17 years in Texas, I have one Nolan Ryan story,
My wife and I go to the theater one night. We walk in, and I saw this guy that I instantly recognize. "Where do I know him from?" I ask myself. Church? Work? The local watgering hole?
After we sit down, I realize, it's Nolan Ryan!! "Deb, I gotta go say hi to that gujy, it's Nolan Ryan."
"You'll do no such thing, buster," she says. "The man brought his wife for a nice night at the theater. He didn't come here to talk baseball with you!"
We argue about it for a few minutes, and then the curtain rises. Yes, I'm whipped, guys.
At the first intermission, I thought I'd casually drop by his box, but some fat lady steps up, and chews his ear for the next 15 minutes. Yeah, I'm sure he'd rather listen to her than talk baseball with me. Second intermission, a repeat of trhe first. And that was my closest encounter with the great one.
It's 12-0 for the Rangers at the end of four innings. I've had enough fun. It's time for bed.


  1. Loved your post. Great stuff. My favorite Ryan story involved the Tigers (of course), when he was working on his second no-hitter in 1973, and with two outs in the ninth Norm Cash stepped to the plate holding a table leg. When Ron Luciano told him he couldn't use it, Cash said, "Why not? I can't hit him anyway." Funny stuff. I wonder Ryan's take on that old story. Bet it wouldn't have been so funny if Cash had gotten a hit. Scary enough stepping in against Ryan; wouldn't have wanted to face him when he was angry. Oh wait, Robin Ventura can tell us how that feels. Haha.

  2. Yes Ryan was an excellent pitcher. No I never liked him, regardless of where he pitched.

  3. For you younger folks, you can see the fight Jeff mentioned at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zwDkrGKlCg
    Actually Ryan probably only landed one good punch, most of the time he was pounded the Top of Ventura's head! In the replay you can see that both Ventura and Ryan came away looking pretty undamaged. White Sox coach Mickey Hatcher came out of the dogpile with a nice gash under his eye.
    Random trivia question for you Tiger fans: who was the young Ranger catcher who bear-hugged Ventura, enabling Ryan to beat the bedaylights out of Ventura?
    Pudge Rodriguez.
    According the Dallas Morning News the other day, Ryan and Ventura have not met or spoken since the fight. They'll certainly get the chance this summer, as Ventura is managing the Sox, and Ryan attends almost every game.