Nolan Ryan, King of the No-Hitters

by J. M. Pressley
First published: August 4, 2011

Nolan Ryan pitched an amazing seven no-hitters in his Hall of Fame career. Each one was a highlight moment.

Nolan Ryan was an anomaly. He began his 27-year major league career in 1966 as a hard-throwing reliever struggling to locate his pitches. He ended it in 1993 with 324 wins and 53 pitching records, including career strikeouts and no-hitters. Each no-hitter was a highlight on Ryan's Hall of Fame résumé.

Ryan pitched seven no-hitters overall. His fifth, in 1981, set a new record. Incredibly, his last two came when Ryan was in his early forties, pitching for the Texas Rangers. Here is a brief look back at the seven no-hitters of Nolan Ryan.

May 15, 1973

In his second season with the California Angels, Ryan was benefiting from a new, compact delivery courtesy of pitching coach Tom Morgan. Ryan faced off against the Royals in Kansas City in his ninth start of the year. Ryan struck out 12 and walked only three batters to beat the Royals 3-0 and record his first no-hitter. As a footnote, the Royals played the game under protest. Manager Jack McKeon accused Ryan of not maintaining contact with the rubber on the mound while pitching.

July 15, 1973

Two months to the day after no-hitting the Royals, Ryan took the mound in Detroit against the Tigers. He proceeded to dominate with 17 strikeouts and four walks. With the Tigers trailing 6-0 and down to their last out, first baseman Norm Cash stepped into the batter's box. Instead of a bat, Cash, who had already struck out twice, wielded the wooden leg from a clubhouse table. Even Ryan smiled at the joke, although umpire Ron Luciano was considerably less amused. Cash retrieved a proper bat and popped out to short to end the game. Ryan became only the fourth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same regular season.

Sept. 28, 1974

It was Ryan's last start of the season. He had already notched his second straight 20-win season with the Angels. Pitching at home against the Minnesota Twins, Ryan struck out 15 and walked eight en route to a 4-0 win. In the ninth inning, Ryan got the first two outs, then walked the pinch-hitter, future Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew. Ryan worked the next pinch-hitter, Eric Soderholm, to a 2-2 count and struck him out swinging for his third no-hitter.

June 1, 1975

The season began with Ryan battling leg injuries and bone chips in his elbow. In a battle of last-place teams, the Angels hosted the Orioles with Ryan on the mound. Ryan struck out nine and walked four while battling out of trouble in the third and seventh innings. In the ninth, Bobby Grich, who had walked twice already, stepped into the box expecting the fastball. Ryan fooled him on a 2-2 changeup to strike him out looking. Ryan's 100th career win tied him with Sandy Koufax at four no-hitters. Ryan also became the only pitcher to record no-hitters in three consecutive seasons.

Sept. 26, 1981

The year before, Ryan had returned to his native Texas with the Houston Astros as a free agent. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Ryan was leading the league in ERA and anchoring the Astros rotation for a playoff run. The Los Angeles Dodgers came into town, and Ryan effectively mowed them down. He struck out 11, walked only three, and retired the last 19 batters he faced for a 5-0 win. It had taken six years, but Ryan had surpassed Koufax with his fifth no-hitter.

June 11, 1990

Ryan had signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers the previous season. The Rangers were in Oakland for a series with the Athletics. Ryan was making only his second start since a stint on the disabled list for back spasms. He was on top of his game, striking out 14 and walking two. The Athletics gave him virtually no trouble the entire game, and the Rangers won 5-0 for Ryan's sixth no-hitter. Ryan, 43 years old and in his 24th season in the majors, became the oldest pitcher to record a no-hitter and the only pitcher to throw no-hitters in three different decades.

May 1, 1991

The next season, the veteran fastballer took the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays at Arlington Stadium on fan appreciation night. He gave them a lot to appreciate that evening. In his fifth start of the season, Ryan faced only 29 batters (two over the minimum), notching 16 strikeouts against two walks in a 3-0 Rangers win. Ryan dominated Toronto in his seventh no-hitter at the improbable age of 44. And for good measure, his performance that day completely stole the thunder from Ricky Henderson, who had earlier broken Lou Brock's record for stolen bases.


Baseball Almanac, Baseball Library, Historic Baseball,, No-Hitters: The 225 Games, 1893-1999 (Rich Wescott, 2000)