Ryan will retire after '93 season

FINAL RUN FOR THE EXPRESS

February 12, 1993|By Gerry Fraley | Gerry Fraley,Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The demanding price of being Nolan Ryan did what major-league hitters could not. The burden overpowered Ryan and knocked him out of baseball.

Ryan, all-time strikeout leader and 319-game winner, told the Texas Rangers and the world yesterday that he will retire at the end of this season. Ryan, 46 last month, said he made the decision because he could no longer juggle physically preparing himself for a season and handling varied business interests while attending to his family.

Ryan's first appearance of his final season could be in Baltimore, where the Rangers open with games against the Orioles on April 5 and 7.

"I haven't had any time for myself in years," said Ryan, entering his record 27th major-league season. "My schedule definitely was a factor. I haven't gotten to do a lot of things I want to do.

"The fact [is] my children are getting to the point where they're going to be leaving home shortly and I'm not going to get the opportunity with my schedule the way it is to do a lot of things with them. I felt like with the family situation and also my physical situation, this really should be my last year."

Ryan said he deviated from his usual pattern of late-season decisions so his intentions would be known to fans hoping to see him pitch one last game. He said he will not encourage a "farewell tour" along the lines of what basketball's Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received.

Phyllis Mehrige, American League public relations director, said the league has no set plans but will honor Ryan this season. Rangers managing general partner George W. Bush said the club "definitely" will retire Ryan's uniform No. 34 and said he will be honored in the new stadium, scheduled to open in 1994.

That is unlikely to include naming the stadium for Ryan. The club is considering corporate sponsorship.

"We've been fortunate to have had Nolan Ryan for as long as we've had him," general manager Tom Grieve said. "When we first signed Nolan Ryan [for the 1989 season], we thought it would be for one year. Obviously, it's gone beyond our wildest dreams."

Ryan's four seasons with the Rangers have been marked by milestone accomplishments. He became the first pitcher to crack the 5,000-strikeout barrier in 1989. He became only the 20th pitcher in history to win 300 games with a victory against Milwaukee in 1990. He pitched no-hitters against defending world champion Oakland in 1990 and Toronto in 1991, giving him a record seven no-hitters.

Overall, Ryan is 46-34 with a 3.30 ERA in four seasons with the Rangers. The club has not finished closer than 10 games out of first place with him, continuing his streak of 23 years without a World Series appearance.

Ryan has pitched in only one World Series, in 1969 as a reliever for the Mets.

"I think it would be very fitting, a Cinderella-type of story, if we have a great year and go to the World Series for his send-off," pitcher Kevin Brown said. "You couldn't ask for a better ending than that. Whether we can write that, that's what we're here for."

Ryan, who will be only the ninth pitcher in history to appear in a game at age 46 or older, said he considered the decision throughout the winter and made the choice during the solitude of a drive to one of his ranches. His attempts to prepare for this season forced him to consider the situation.

Upon saying last September that he would return for another season, Ryan vowed to undergo his "most intensive" off-season workout plan ever after the ignominy of a five-victory season. Ryan admitted he has been unable to meet that commitment because of time constraints. To do the workouts properly would take away from his business activities.

"The time just hasn't been there," he said. "My workouts and what it takes for me to continue to perform on this level dominate my life so much now. I don't know how much longer if I could do it that I'd want to do it."

Ryan also said he was unwilling to simply hang on in the majors. He has been on the disabled list four times in the last three seasons. He was on the disabled list seven times in the previous 20 seasons.

"It's obvious I was going to have to make this decision in the very near future," he said. "A concern of mine was knowing when it's time to get out of the game. It's tough knowing when you've played long enough. You don't want to stay too long. I'd rather be premature than a little late on that decision. I hope at the end of this year I'll feel like I could have come back and maybe squeezed one more year out of it."

No matter his performance, Ryan said the decision will not be changed. Under terms of his contract, which will pay him $3.75 million this season, he will remain with the club for 10 years after retirement under a personal-services contract.

The personal-services arrangement guarantees Ryan will wear a Rangers cap on his plaque if inducted into the Hall of Fame in that span. Ryan will be eligible for the Hall after the 1998 season and is expected to be a first-ballot inductee.

Where Ryan ranks

Where Nolan Ryan ranks among all-time leaders in some pitching categories:

Category ....... No. ... Rank

Strikeouts .... 5,668 .... 1

No-hitters ........ 7 .... 1

Walks ......... 2,755 .... 1

Losses .......... 287 .... 3

Innings ....... 5,320 .... 6

Shutouts ......... 61 .... 7

Wins ..... ...... 319 ... 13

Games .... ...... 794 ... 17

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