DALLAS — In baseball's 100-plus-year history, there have been pitchers with more wins, less strikeouts and lower earned run averages than Nolan Ryan.
But Ryan had an edge on everyone else in one very important category: Fear.
The Texas flamethrower was notorious for being "effectively wild," brushing batters off the plate with 100 mph heat. His imposing stature and rocket arm made him a Texas legend.
And he had the track record to back it up: Three-hundred and twenty-four wins, seven no-hitters, a 3.19 career ERA and an all-time best 5,714 strikeouts.
Now, he's on the big screen.
“When I watch the film, I really kind of reflect back on how long 27 years is,” said Ryan, now 75, of his career. “It almost made me tired, and the commitment that I had to make to compete for that long. But I took a lot of pride in being in shape and being able to compete with people that were half my age.”
Ahead of Ryan's big-screen debut, here are five accomplishments and moments that made him a legend:
The first of several "we likely won't see that again" takeaways from Ryan's career begins and ends with his no-hitters. All seven of them.
Only Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax comes close to this mark, with four no-nos, and the next best is Justin Verlander, who has three.
Ryan tossed his first no-hitter with the California Angels in May 1973, and added another two months later. He threw two more no-nos with the Angels, in 1974 and 1975; one with the Astros in 1981; and two with the Rangers, in 1990 and 1991.
His final no-hitter came against the Blue Jays at Arlington Stadium on May 1, 1991, when he struck out 16 batters. He was 44.
This is the one that won't be topped, not even in the current strikeout-happy era.
Ryan sits comfortably atop the all-time strikeout rankings, more than 800 ahead of Randy Johnson. The active strikeout leader, Justin Verlander, has 3,094.
Ryan's swing-and-miss prowess was a combination of his overpowering fastball, his longevity in the game and his durability, which we'll get to in a second. For context, last year's strikeout leader, Robbie Ray, notched 248. Ryan hit 300 strikeouts six times in his career
235 pitches in one game
Plain and simple: This will never happen again.
Today a pitcher surpassing 100 pitches is more rare than ever. On June 14, 1974, Ryan doubled that number, and then some.
In a matchup against the Red Sox, he threw 13 innings of three-run ball, totaling 235 pitches. And he struck out 19 batters along the way, then a single-game record.
“In those days," Ryan later told the Los Angeles Times, "I was my own closer."
From 19 to 46
Those are the ages Ryan's career spanned, from a teenager making his debut with the Mets in 1966 to his final run with the Rangers in the early 1990s.
A few of the early 20th Century hurlers pitched more innings than Ryan. But in the modern era, only Phil Niekro had more, throwing 5,404 to Ryan's 5,386. And no one's career lasted more seasons than Ryan's 27.
Beating up Robin Ventura
C'mon now. We couldn't leave a list of Ryan moments without including THE moment.
That's not to overshadow Ryan's pitching But one of the iconic images of his career wasn't a pitch.
Intentional or not, Ryan had plunked White Sox hitter Robin Ventura in the back. Ventura responded by charging the mound.
Almost instantly, Ryan, 46, put the 26-year-old third baseman in a headlock and started throwing punches, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued.
The end result was that iconic image of Ryan, his lip and jersey bloodied, staring in for another pitch.
He ended up throwing seven innings of one-run ball. He'd take the mound six more times before retiring.