Baseball Hall of Fame
Born: Jan 31, 1947
A native of Refugio, Texas, Nolan Ryan was a flamethrowing pitcher who signed with the Astros as a free agent after the 1979 season. The first player to earn one million dollars per season, Ryan had already tossed four no-hitters and set numerous strikeout records with the California Angels.
He was nearly as effective with Houston. He tossed his fifth no-hitter in 1981 and became the all-time strikeout leader when he passed the immortal Walter Johnson in 1983. Ryan had several hard-luck seasons with Houston, most notably in 1987 when he led the league in ERA and strikeouts but finished with an 8-16 record due to abysmal run support. After the 1988 season, Ryan left the Astros due to an egregious miscalculation by owner John McMullen; he had tried to cut Ryan's salary by 20%, thinking the pitcher would stay in Houston rather than become a free agent. Ryan finished his remarkable career with the Texas Rangers, winning his 300th game, punching out his 5,000th strikeout and tossing two more no-hitters on his way into the Hall of Fame - as a Ranger.
Ryan was an Astro for nine seasons, the most for him with any team. He compiled a 106-94 record with a 3.13 ERA and 1866 strikeouts. Beyond breaking Johnson's strikeout record, Ryan notched his 3,000th, 4,000th and 4,500th strikeouts in an Astros' jersey. His 27-season career record is 324-292 with a 3.19 ERA, 222 complete games, 61 shutouts and a baseball best 5,714 strikeouts. He pitched past his 46th birthday and threw his last when he blew out his elbow in September, 1993 - having played for parts of four decades.
Ryan's years since his playing days has somewhat mirrored how his playing career went. He became a partner in a group that brought Houston's AA and AAA franchises to Texas in Round Rock and Corpus Christi. He signed a personal services contract with the Astros and worked with their young pitchers as well as hosting an "elite camp" in the late winter. In 2008, he was offered a position as President of the Rangers and accepted that post. In 2010, he became part of an ownership group buying the Rangers from Tom Hicks.