Where did my youth go? It seems like just yesterday I was watching Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson hit 500-foot bombs to Center Field. Today, they are just memories of days gone by. Baseball is and always will be for the “youth movement”. It’s a sad reality but one I must learn to deal with.
You may not of noticed it because of the 21-year old that’s stolen his thunder but Ken Griffey Jr. has finally begun to wear down right before our eyes. In 61 games and over 200 at-bats “the kid” has just 7 home runs. Meanwhile, Jay Bruce had 3 in 40-something plate appearances as of last week.
It’s hard to imagine a dominant old man in baseball anymore when all we hear about these days is Joba Chamberlain, David Price, and Evan Longoria. The guys a little older are already bonafide superstars (Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright). When was the last time a man in his 40’s dominated baseball?
You with the Giants hat, put your hand down. I meant dominated baseball without resorting to cheating. It’s been a long time.
On the first day of May in 1991 a 44-year old came to the stadium with more pain that anyone should have to live through. His knees were a mess, his shoulder was killing him, and the empty bottle of Advil he had taken throughout the day was having no affect. He walked up to his pitching coach and warned him that nothing good could come out of this start. He didn’t even think he would make it out of the 5th inning. Time had finally caught up to “The Ryan Express”, Nolan Ryan.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ line-up was as respected as any in baseball. They carried with them All-Stars Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, and John Olerud, not to mention “Hard Hittin'” Mark Whitten, one of only three men to hit 4 home runs in one game in the last 15 years. It didn’t make a difference to Nolan Ryan, though. On this night you could have thrown in “Murderer’s Row” and watched as Ryan sent them back to the dugout with heat clocking in at 96 MPH for each batter who dared to step in front of him.
In the end Nolan Ryan walked away with a win and his 7th No-Hitter, one of many records he holds to this day. There may be others with better winning percentages or wins but no one has yet to come close to the career Nolan Ryan put together in 27 seasons. He came up as a kid with “control issues” and walked away with the career-record for strikeouts and no-hitters. Meanwhile, a man who could probably predict his pitches within a couple of inches, Greg Maddux, will probably walk away without a single no-hitter to his name.