The Nolan Ryan Express | The Astros years | smackbomb.com/nolanryan

The Nolan Ryan Express -- smackbomb.com/nolanryan

The Astros Years (1980-1989)

It seems only fitting that a 7-time strikeout leader and owner of 4 no-hitters would become the highest paid player in the league. And in fact he was - Nolan signed baseball's first million-dollar a year contract on Nov 19, 1979. The deal - 3 years, $3.5 million. It brought Nolan closer to home to a place he thought he could finish his career.

No doubt partly to the clown-like uniforms, the Astros were a team starved for respect. Nolan brought just that. He threw his record-breaking 5th no-hitter in 1981 and led the team to the division title in 1980 and 1986. He made the All-Star team in 1981 and 1985.

Trouble began, though, when Nolan lost his bid for his first Cy Young award in 1987. He led the league once again in strikeouts (270) and era (2.76), but lost out to Steve Bedrosian, mostly due to his 8-16 record. That in and of itself wasn't a major problem, that is, until Astros owner John McMullen asked Ryan to take a 20% paycut, the steapest paycut allowed by MLB rules.

It was an insult of the worst kind, and Nolan let him know without a word. He signed with the Texas Rangers for the 1989 season, after entertaining offers from the Yankees, A's, and Angels.

Milestones

  • April 12, 1980 - First Astros' start vs Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston
    • 6IP 6H 4R 4ER 5BB 3SO
    • No decision
    • On national television, hits first career homerun (a 3 run shot) to cap off an Astros' four run fourth inning
    • Mound opponent - Don Sutton
    • Catcher - Alan Ashby
  • July 4, 1980 - Strikes out Cincinatti Reds' Cesar Geronimo for career strikeout #3,000
  • September 26, 1981 - Pitches 5th no hitter
  • 1981 - Leads the league with a 1.69 ERA posting one of the best post World War II ERAs
  • 1981 - Houston Astros' Most Valuable Player
  • April 27, 1983 - Strikes out Montreal Expos' Brad Mills to record strikeout #3,509 breaking Walter Johnson's 56 year old record for most strikeouts
  • July 11, 1985 - Strikes out New York Mets' Danny Heep for career strikeout #4,000
  • May 1, 1987 - Hits second career homerun (as his first, a three run shot) against Charlie Puleo of the Atlanta Braves
  • 1987 - Earns the dubious distinction as the only pitcher to lead the league in strikeouts (270) and ERA (2.76) not to win the Cy Young Award
  • October 30, 1987 - Elected to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame
  • September 29, 1996 - Houston Astros retires jersey number 34
    • First player to have a jersey number retired by three different teams
    • First player to have a jersey number retired in both leagues

Statistics

YEAR   TEAM      GAMES    W    L    S.O.     H    BB   CG  SHO   E.R.A.

1980   Astros       35   11   10     200   205    98    4    2    3.35
1981   Astros       21   11    5     140    99    68    5    3    1.69
1982   Astros       35   16   12     245   196   109   10    3    3.16
1983   Astros       29   14    9     183   134   101    5    2    2.98
1984   Astros       30   12   11     197   143    69    5    2    3.04
1985   Astros       35   10   12     209   205    95    4    0    3.80
1986   Astros       30   12    8     194   119    82    1    0    3.34
1987   Astros       34    8   16     270   154    87    0    0    2.76
1988   Astros       33   12   11     228   186    87    4    1    3.52

TOTAL 9 years 282 106 90 1866 1441 796 38 13 3.07

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