I'm a strikeout fan. A HUGE strikeout fan.
Power pitchers have always been "Gods" to me, from Tom Seaver through Dwight Gooden through Randy Johnson to today's K-Kings like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
And for a kid who idolized power-pitchers, the 1970's were the apex of strikeout kings, giving us all-time legends like Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, and the all-time "King of Kings", Lynn Nolan Ryan.
Though he catapulted himself to superstar status in 1972 in his first year with the Angels, it was 1973 that just affirmed his spot in the annals of baseball history.
Not only did Ryan throw two no-hitters during the season, but in his final start he whiffed batter number 383, thus breaking Sandy Koufax then eight-year-old Major League record set in 1965.
What I always found incredible about the whole thing was that Ryan set the record in the 11th inning of his final start of the year!
He fanned the final batter he faced, Rich Reese, for the final out of the inning before the Angels won it in the bottom of the inning, thus ending Ryan's historic season.
An 11-inning complete game with 16 strikeouts!
What a way to cap it off…
Sadly Topps was too wrapped up with Hank Aaron's home run festivities (and rightly so I have to admit) to give Ryan a nice tribute card in honor of his feat in their 1974 set, so I went ahead and designed one myself.
Take a look:
I took the Aaron layout of card #1 and utilized it here for Ryan's highlight card.
The older I get, the more Nolan Ryan's "legend" grows with me.
With all the pitch-count watches, careful handling of young pitchers and innings limitations in today's game, Ryan's Major League resume just gets more and more incredible as time goes on.
A freaking machine…
27 years of fire-balling power, well into his 40's.
"Ryan Express" indeed!