Classic card of the week

Nolan Ryan, Baseball Heroes, 1990 Upper Deck

Here is our collective baseball hero, Nolan Ryan. In 1989 he struck out his 5,000th batter. But I bet you were wondering what he was like as a naïve, impressionable, hillbilly youngster, caught up in the big bright lights of New York City.

As a youngster with the Mets, Nolan once remarked to teammate Tom Seaver that Jim Bunning’s 2,500th strikeout, which they had just witnessed, was a remarkable accomplishment.

Nolan Ryan: You know what, Tom? I was thinking. To me, 2,500 strikeouts is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

Tom Seaver: Oh, really? Ya’ think? You know Nolan, I thought your strong suit was throwing 100-mph fastballs. But let’s throw “perceptive analysis” into the category of “things you do really well.” In fact, I wanted your opinion on something. This baseball looks round to me. What do you think?

Nolan Ryan: I hate you.

Seaver told him about Walter Johnson’s 3,508 career K’s.

In the realm of silly and contrived and 99%-false baseball anecdotes, this one may take the cake. This sounds like a story that Tommy Lasorda would tell at a Little League Awards Banquet before losing his train of thought and then complaining about how the lasagna is cold. Am I really supposed to picture this moment happening as it is described here, with Tom Seaver putting his arm around Nolan Ryan and telling him about Walter Johnson? Gather ‘round here young buckaroo, and grab a seat on ol’ Pappa Tom’s lap. Lemme tell you about a fella named Walter Johnson… For crying out loud, Nolan Ryan was a grown man and a major league pitcher. I think he knew who Walter Johnson was.

Little did either dream about 4,000 much less 5,000.

How do you know what these men dreamt about? I dreamt about 5,000 Ks last night. Granted, I was pitching against a team of polka dots and my coach was Patti LaBelle. But still, I got 5,000 Ks. What can I tell you. Dreams are weird.

The point is, speculating that Nolan Ryan could not even entertain the thought of 5,000 strikeouts is just a means of making the achievement sound better, when the achievement itself doesn’t need any help. And yes, I realize that I am railing against the back of a baseball card. Still.

Most likely, if baseball is played in the future as it is today,

With bats and balls...

no one will ever again challenge 5,000.

So, if baseball is played in the future as it was when Nolan Ryan reached 5,000 strikeouts, then no one will ever reach 5,000 strikeouts. Because the same game that allowed Nolan Ryan to reach 5,000 strikeouts will not allow somebody else to reach 5,000 strikeouts. Because it will be the same game. X = Y. Of course, what this is attempting to say is that if the current baseball trends –- specialized relief pitchers, lower pitch counts, et al –- continue, it will be near impossible for another player to attain 5,000 strikeouts.

An easier way to say this would have been: No matter what, no one will ever, ever, ever again reach 5,000 strikeouts. Ever.

Did you know?
"Fireside Chats With Tom Seaver" was a PBS program that featured the Hall-of-Fame pitcher reading Dr. Seuss books to current major leaguers.