Nolan Ryan, Football Star

Nolan Ryan was a monster on the mound and in our hobby, especially in the late-80s and early-90s, as he was easily one of the most popular and collected players around that time. Back in 1989, while still in the early years of what is now referred to as the “Junk Wax” era, Upper Deck produced a card featuring the ‘Ryan Express’ tossing the pig skin around. I’m sure the folks at Upper Deck, still in their debut year, didn’t expect much from card #774 but for one reason or another, collectors ate this card up and helped it become one of the most iconic baseball cards from the Junk Wax era. It wasn’t Bo Jackson in football gear for Score but it was no slouch either.

The other day, while doing my daily perusing of eBay, I discovered a second Nolan Ryan baseball card tossing a football. That card got me thinking, what if there are even more Nolan Ryan baseball football cards? Sure enough, I found quite a few others. I found two from Pacific’s Nolan Ryan set produced in 1991 and one from 1992 The Colla Collection, an oddball but heavily underrated set produced in the final days of the Junk Wax era as the bubble was just about ready to burst. There were also versions of Upper Deck’s Looney Tunes set, which were sorta fun when I was 13 but not all that much. If you’re a big spender, there’s even a certified autograph from 1991 Upper Deck to whet your appetite.

I was even able to locate a few Nolan Ryan baseball football cards in modern releases including recently in 2021 Topps Series Two as a photo variation that can run you anywhere between $15-$20. There’s also a lesser-known 2010 Topps version available to fill out your unique set. So of course, that got me thinking about putting together a master checklist of all baseball cards featuring Nolan Ryan throwing a football. Check below the images to see the entire list and if you know of any cards I am missing, please let me know so I can update the checklist.

1989 Upper Deck #774

1990 Upper Deck #18

1991 Upper Deck ‘Heroes’

1991 Upper Deck ‘Heroes’ (AU, #’d 2,500)

1991 Upper Deck Comic Ball (NSCC Promo)

1991 Upper Deck Comic Ball Gossamer Hologram

1991 Pacific Nolan Ryan #77

1991 Pacific Nolan Ryan #80

1992 The Colla Collection #10 (#’d to 25,000)

1993 Upper Deck ‘Fifth Anniversary’ #A5 (#’d to 10,000)

2010 Topps #615

2021 Topps Series Two #567 (SP variation)

Also, there seems to be a LOT of Nolan Ryan tossing a football pictures available on the internet but curiously they all come from his playing days as a Texas Ranger. Did Nolan Ryan only start warming up with footballs in the twilight of his baseball career? Another important question: Why hasn’t any card manufacturer produced an official (or even unlicensed) NFL trading card of Nolan Ryan? We were just gifted with a Panini George Costanza baseball card but what the all-time strike-out king? Panini America is even based out of Texas! Talk about a missed opportunity.

3 thoughts on “Nolan Ryan, Football Star

  1. If I remember correctly, Tom House is the guy responsible for pitchers throwing footballs. He was the Rangers pitching coach when Ryan went there as the king of the hobby.

    Is also worth noting that House has admitted to using steroids when he played and his close association with Ryan coupled with Ryan’s resistance to aging is a big reason why some people suspect Ryan was on the juice.

  2. Wow, I had NO IDEA that Ryan had ever been even accused of using steroids. That may explain his heart issues later in life. Time to do some research.

  3. It comes up occasionally on Twitter. Our generation is generally incredulous but there’s enough circumstantial evidence that I totally understand why people think it.

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