Forty-one years ago today, Nolan Ryan made his only World Series appearance. He was summoned to the mound at Shea Stadium in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series with the Mets ahead of the Orioles 4-0 but with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. He relieved Gary Gentry.
Ryan faced Paul Blair, who laced what might have been a game-changing extra-base hit to right-centerfield. But Tommie Agee raced over and made the catch, his second magnificent catch of the game. Ryan pitched two scoreless innings after that, turning the Series inexorably to the Mets and earning the save.
He made another huge save this year. As president of the Texas Rangers and head of a group trying to buy the bankrupt franchise, he won Major League Baseball’s approval for ownership. What’s more, the Hall of Famer withstood the budgetary restrictions on the team and approved the bold trade for Cliff Lee. Without him, maybe they would have won the American League West but almost surely they wouldn’t have beaten Tampa Bay in the Division Series for its first-ever postseason series triumph.
The former flame-thrower is determined to make the Texas franchise a haven for pitching. Getting Lee was a big step toward that goal, although probably only a very temporary one.
It is not likely that the Rangers will have the resources to pay Lee the free agent salary that his postseason will command. It is quite likely that Lee will be pitching at Yankee Stadium again in October next year, for the third straight season, only for the home team.
For now, in this American League Championship Series, Ryan is hopeful that his team can bring him back to the World Series, 41 years later.
“We played the Yankees well,” Ryan told yahoo.com this week. “And I think that we can meet the Yankees head on and compete with them. Normally in this league you pretty much have to go through New York if you’re gonna go somewhere past there. I think our guys anticipated that and they’re ready for it.”