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Special – 1981 – NBCs Sportsworld – Nolan Ryan 5th No Hitter & Tex Cobb Interview & MLB Hilites

DOG COMMENTARY:   

Every time we at ImaSportsphile get to post a vintage ABC Wide World of Sports or a CBS Sports Saturday/Sunday or an NBC SportsWorld….we get excited because we know we are going to get to watch something that is really good and interesting….and things in the sports world that don’t happen very often….and this NBC SportsWorld provide a Sportsphile with a feat that may never be accomplished again….as Nolan Ryan pitches his 5th no hitter to break Sandy Koufax’s MLB record of 4 no no’s…. and NOBODY has even gotten 3 no hitters since…but beyond this MLB record of 5, Nolan Ryan went on to pitch his 6th and 7th…which crushes Koufax record one shy of double….so I decided to post exerts from an article written by Steve Wulf of Sports Illustrated and featured in their newsstand issue on May 1, 2015…as the men who caught The Ryan Express or Big Tex during his incredible 7 no hitters as follows: 

Roberto Alomar swung through the 2-2 fastball….and in that one fell swoop on the night of May 1, 1991…. the Texas Rangers beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3 – 0….and 44 year old Nolan Ryan had his 7th no hitter as 33,439 lucky fans at Arlington Appreciation Night roared their appreciation….for this was a night  Rickey Henderson was upstaged and a nation smiled, too…..as Ryan smiled too….and then made sure he thanked his catcher, Mike Stanley,,,,before his teammates mobbed him….so now Ryan has as many no-hitters as there are seas, heavens, wonders of the world, days of the week, sacraments, deadly sins and innings before you stretch….as the number of mind-boggling facts about his masterpiece far exceeds seven.  Alomar, for instance, was just five years old when his father Sandy played second base behind Ryan in his first no-hitter….in a game that the center fielder in that game was Bobby Valentine…who is now Ryan’s manager in Texas on this historic day….as Big Tex has more nine-inning no-hitters than all the rest of the starting pitchers now on active major league rosters combined…who  have six….plus the are no two pitchers in baseball history who can pool their no-hit totals and top Ryan. He is now the oldest (44) and second oldest (43) man to pitch a no-hitter….as Cy Young (41) is a distant third. In addition to the seven no-hitters, Ryan has taken five other possible no-hitters into the ninth before they were broken up…all with just two outs left in the game….and on this historic night of his 7th…. his best fastball was clocked at 96 mph….which he threw in the 7th inning.

As amazing as the numbers are, the truly inspiring thing about Ryan’s performance was his conduct….. as he was working on four days’ rest…which was one less than his usual….cuz The Ryan Express felt he needed the work….plus it allowed him to make a start on Arlington Appreciation Night. His back and his right heel were bothering him so much before the game that he told pitching coach Tom House, ”I feel old today,” ….but he went ahead and pitched anyway. Some six hours after Henderson had declared himself the greatest base their of all time upon swiping No. 939….Ryan “aw-shucksed” his own achievement by saying…. ”This is the one I wanted most because it was in front of the fans who have been so supportive of me, and it was really great to pitch one in front of them.”….then he celebrated by working out for a half hour on a stationary bike…..which is evidence to the fact that greatness never comes easy….or without discipline and sacrifice.  

Nolan Ryan has always had that generosity of spirit…..heck, he even seemed to have brought it to bear when it came to apportioning the distinction of catching his no- nos….as his seven no-hitters have come with seven different catchers…to which most of whom have had forgettable careers including Jeff Torborg, Art Kusnyer, Tom Egan and Ellie Rodriguez of the California Angels….Alan Ashby of the Houston Astros….and John Russell and Mike Stanley of the Texas Rangers. Those seven had a combined batting average of .234 when this season began….while none of the seven had more than 255 at bats during the season of the no-hitter. It does seem to speak well of Ryan that he has bestowed these moments of greatness on people who might otherwise never have had a day in the sun….for as Stanley said after No. 7….”When my career is over, nobody is going to remember me. At least now I’ll have something. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.” …..to which we at ImaSportsphile say…THEY ALL REMEMBER.  

# 1 – May 15, 1973: Angels 3, Royals 0   

Jeff Torborg was hardly expecting a no-hitter….as a result of Ryan’s previous start against the Chicago White Sox….when he had lasted just 17 pitches…..”It was our first trip into the new ballpark in Kansas City and Nolan didn’t have exceptional stuff that night….it was real good, mind you, but not exceptional for him….plus Royals’ Mgr Jack McKeon was trying to rattle Nolan by protesting the way he tapped the rubber with his right foot and not maintaining contact….but he withdrew the protest after the game.  We actually talked about the no-hitter during the game…..as I told Nolan how we had to approach this thing. We still had to win the game. Nolan was focused. He’s always been so intense.”  There were two close calls in the game….when in the 8th inning…SS Rudy Meoli made an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow left on a ball hit by Gail Hopkins….and with two outs in the ninth, Ken Berry, was inserted in right field that inning for defense….and he leaped up at the wall to catch a ball hit by Amos Otis. ”I remember that last out fairly vividly,” Torborg says. “I’ve even got a montage of the out on my wall at home: Nolan throwing and Otis hitting, with the scoreboard in the background.”    

Torborg had a penchant for these great occasions, having caught, as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the perfect game by Sandy Koufax and a no-hitter by Bill Singer. ”After Nolan’s first no-hitter, some people said that I had really helped Ryan'”….as Torborg says,. “Of course, you’d like to get credit, but now that he’s done it with seven different catchers, I think my cover is blown.”   

# 2 – July 15, 1973: Angels 6, Tigers 0   

Torborg broke his finger two days before this game in Detroit….so seldom used backup catcher Art Kusnyer got the call. ”Before the game Nolan said he felt he had good control,” says Kusnyer ”That wasn’t all that common for him in those days. He actually thought the Tigers were stealing our signs. I told him, ‘I can tell them what’s coming and it wouldn’t matter the way you’re throwing.’   

At one point Norm Cash struck out, and as he returned to the dugout, Bill Freehan asked him what Nolan was throwing and Cash said, ‘Don’t go up there.’ Cash actually came to bat with a table leg…. all square and knobby and somewhat crooked…which he had taken it off a table in the clubhouse saying  ‘I might as well use this,’ ….but umpire Ron Luciano wouldn’t let him use it.  The last out of the game was the closest the Tigers came to a hit….when Gates Brown hit a line drive that Rudy Meoli jumped for and caught….as it would have been a base hit if he hadn’t caught the ballTorborg remember that Nolan struck out 17 Tigers that game saying “and my finger turned purple from all the fastballs he threw.”   

# 3 – Sept. 28, 1974: Angels 4, Twins 0    

Tom Egan of the California Angels says he knew a no-hitter was in the works from the first pitch of this game in Anaheim…..relating that they called a fastball that when Big Tex threw the pitch….he went down to block the ball….and the ball rose some three feet and being called a strike….when the umpire, Bill Haller, said, ‘Where were you going?’….and Egan said “I thought it was in the dirt….and he said he did, too.”    

Egan described catching Nolan Ryan that day was like driving a powerful car….but he walked eight indicating his lack of control though….powerful but wild. The catcher only remembers only one close call in the game on a ball hit to shortstop. Rudy Meoli….who dove for the ball while quickly rising and threw the guy out.”  In truth, SS Rudy Meoli may have saved the first three no-hitters….but he also cost  Ryan  one in 1973….hen he a let a first-inning pop-up by the New York Yankees’ Thurman Munson fall for the only hit of the game.    

Egan says after the game...”Nolan gave me $500. He gave each player on the field a bonus. He came around and thanked everyone for a job well done. I feel so happy for the guy every time he pitches a no-hitter. I feel that there’s a reason that this is happening, and even though you don’t know what the reason is, you know that whoever picked him picked a good guy.”   

# 4 – June 1, 1975: Angels 1, Orioles 0    

Before the game in Anaheim….Nolan Ryan went up to his catcher Ellie Rodriguez….when he asked him if he was catching the game on this day….then tossed him a little rubber ball and said…. “Here,” I’ll be throwing these today.”….and despite that little omen…. Rodriguez knew that Ryan did not have his best stuff that day….cuz ”He had a tough, tough time warming up. When he started, he was throwing around 86 miles an hour. But he had a good change and a good curve going. Then in the fifth inning, his fastball started popping. He shook me off just a few times in that game. Once was on the last pitch of the game, with the count 2-2 on Bobby Grich. I called for a fastball, but he called me out to the mound to tell me he wanted the changeup, and we caught Grich looking. I had the ball, and I told Nolan that I had the ball, and I’m not going to give it to you.’ But I did.”  Rodriquez says he was out at a boxing match the night Ryan pitched his seventh no-hitter. “When I came home, I turned on ESPN, and that’s when I heard about it. I said, ‘Wow!’ I felt really good because Nolan’s a really nice guy. I caught him for three years, and it’s really special to me every time he has a great game.”    

# 5 – Sept. 26, 1981: Astros 5, Dodgers 0    

This was the no-hitter, pitched in Houston, that broke Koufax’s career record of four. “I saw two of Koufax’s no-hitters as a kid,” says Ashby, who is now a sportscaster for KHTV in Houston. ”I idolized Koufax. So to be able to catch the fifth one, the one that broke the record, that was a mind-boggling experience. Looking back to ’81, I didn’t think Nolan  would be able to throw another no-hitter.”  Logically, he was nearing the end of his career….and although he wasn’t losing his stuff….he was still sitting at age 34 at the time. On the last out of the game, Nolan  hung  a curve ball to Dusty Baker…. but he guessed wrong and grounded the ball to Art Howe at third.   

On the night of The Ryan Express notched # 7…Alan Ashby commented….“The fifth one was the one he needed. The last two have been icing on the cake. Real tasty icing. It was very interesting watching Number Seven last night. I was gearing up to do the sports, yet I’m rooting for Nolan as a fan and wishing I had been catching. I also felt sorry for Geno Petralli. He’s the Rangers’ regular catcher, and he hasn’t caught one yet.”    

# 6 – June 11, 1990: Rangers 5, Athletics 0    

Rangers C Petralli had a sore neck….and backup John Stanley had a bruised shoulder….so the assignment that night in Oakland went to Russell….who had never caught Ryan. Six weeks before the game Russell had been helping to coach a high school team in suburban Philadelphia….as the Braves had released him in spring training….and the Rangers had signed him to a Triple A contract in May….so, before the first pitch, Russell told Ryan, “It’s a great thrill just to catch you.”     

Russell says he didn’t start thinking no-hitter until the fifth inning saying….“That’s when Nolan really started to turn it on. It seemed like every pitch he made was perfect. Behind the plate, the pitches looked unhittable. The intensity in his eyes was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s why I never got nervous. I looked into his eyes.  It was like being in a tunnel. There was no one out there but Nolan and me. There’s no other way to describe it. The no-hitter is something I can always be proud of. I had a little something to do with it.”….for John Russell had made the Rangers as a non-roster player during the spring….and watched a tape of the no- hitter over and over during the winter while he was waiting for teams to call was heard saying….“It still gives me goose bumps. It’ll do that 10 years from now.” 

# 7 – May 1,1991: Rangers 3, Blue Jay 0   

Catcher Mike Stanley also had to make the team as a non-roster player that same spring…..and until the May 1 game…. he was feeling left out due the fact that Russell had a Ryan no-hitter….Petralli had caught  The Ryan Expres’s 300th victory…..and Chad Kreuter had been behind the plate when Ryan got his 5,000th strikeout against Oakland’s Hall of Famer CF Rickey Henderson.  

After the second inning, in which Ryan fanned John Olerud, Mark Whiten and Glenallen Hill all looking on curve balls….and that is when Stanley started thinking he might get his career moment saying….“As each inning went on, you could see it in his eyes. You could hear him talking to himself. You could see that he really sensed it and knew what to do with it. That was the exciting part, watching Nolan and his mannerisms, and the way he went after it.”

Stanley thought Ryan had lost the no-hitter in the sixth when Manny Lee hit a shallow fly ball to center where Gary Pettis was playing while saying “I screamed and yelled and turned away…. then I looked up and saw the ball coming back in. Gary must have moved before the ball was hit. I thought, This is the greatest chance for him and the greatest chance for me for a no-hitter. And it came true.”   

It has come true for seven different catchers, and Egan, No. 3, thinks there’s a reason Ryan throws his masterpieces at nondescript receivers. ”I can’t speak for the others,” he says, ”but with Torborg, Kusnyer and me, Nolan found guys as intense as he was, guys with good attitudes. He attaches himself to the catchers who think and act like him, no matter what they hit. And you don’t throw a no-hitter unless you’re in synch with your catcher.”  

Egan says he would like to meet some of the other catchers some day by saying….“Maybe when Nolan finally retires, I’ll throw a party for all the guys…of course, by then, I might have to invite 10 or 12 catchers.” 

Any way you cut the pie….this video contains footage of historic proportions regarding the feats of a Paul Bunionesque pitcher from Alvin, Texas….who is unmatched in the annals of baseball history like no other….which makes this video MUST SEE TV at ImaSportsphile.

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