Ryan fanned first batter he faced in the big leagues

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Andrew Kivette

He could jam radar guns with his fastball, strike out anyone and probably hold his own in a boxing match, too.

Nolan Ryan was one of the most feared pitchers of all time. “Ryan’s got that aura of intimidation. And I was a little nervous facing him,” said Travis Fryman, a sentiment shared by most batters that ever had to face Ryan.

On Sept. 11, 1966, the rookie started his marathon career by recording the first of his MLB-record 5,714 Ks.

Fittingly, the first batter Ryan would face at the big league level would be sent back to the dugout following a strikeout.

Ryan was a September call-up for the New York Mets in 1966 – a team not in playoff contention.

He got the call for mop-up duty in a 6-1 game against the Braves on Sept. 11, but little did then-Mets manager Wes Westrum know what journey began in the sixth inning at Shea Stadium on that autumn day.

After Ryan had taken his warm-up pitches, Braves pitcher Pat Jarvis stepped into the box. It proved to be a waste of a trip, as he trudged back to the dugout as the first victim of Ryan’s career.

Ryan led the league in strikeouts 11 times, en route to becoming the all-time leader in single-season (383 in 1973) punch-outs. “You could hear his ball hiss. It didn’t sound like anyone else’s,” Hall of Famer Hank Aaron said.

“I used to tell young hitters, ‘You don’t need to run up there and hit it. It will get there pretty quick and when it does, you better be ready to swing.’”

In his 27-year career, Ryan recorded seven no-hitters, which still stands today as an MLB record.

Ryan was elected to the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility in 1999, receiving 98.79 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote.

“My motto is, 'Always work more, and never less,’” Ryan said.

“There are no shortcuts to success. You have to continually work, and work hard, to be successful.”


Andrew Kivette was the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series