McDonald won't be fan of Ryan's until after game

August 21, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Before he was a pitcher, Ben McDonald was a fan, and his boyhood hero was Nolan Ryan.

So it's only natural that McDonald would seek out Ryan for an autograph before the Texas Rangers legend retires at the end of the season.

But the autograph, if Ryan chooses to grant it, will have to wait until the Orioles go to Arlington, Texas, next weekend, because McDonald will be too busy pitching against Ryan tonight.

"The good thing is that we get to go into his place, so I can get it there, away from all the hoopla," said McDonald.

McDonald said he would try to separate the emotion of Ryan's final Baltimore appearance -- final, that is, unless the Rangers and the Orioles get to the American League Championship Series -- from the task at hand, namely winning the game.

"My most important thing is to get a win," McDonald said. "It will be excitement, but I've had to pitch this year against [Roger] Clemens and [David] Cone. I just have to put that stuff aside. I may sit back in the off-season and think about this, but not right now."

McDonald pitched well against Clemens and Cone, shutting out both Boston and Kansas City when he faced each at Camden Yards, where he'll oppose Ryan.

"It wasn't me against Clemens or me against Cone, but me against their hitters," McDonald said. "I think it [tonight] will mean more later on, but I've got a job to do."

Still, the fan in McDonald paid tribute to Ryan, the all-time strikeout leader and his work habits.

"His work ethic has been outstanding," McDonald said. "I can't even comprehend how he's done what he's done for that long. I mean, you look at a guy like Sutcliffe who's had a long career and done well, and then you look at a guy like him who's pitched for 10 years before that. And he was around when they pitched 300 innings [a year] and when they had four-man rotations. You'll never see a guy like that again."

For his part, Ryan said McDonald was a "much more polished pitcher" than he was at that stage of his career.

"I had a lot of control problems at that point," Ryan said. "He's a lot more like Roger Clemens. Each year, we've seen Ben get better and develop as a pitcher."

During a pre-game news conference, Ryan was philosophical about his experiences in Baltimore, saying that his only World Series win, in 1969 with the New York Mets, came against the Orioles -- not to mention an appearance in the 1979 AL playoffs with the California Angels vs. the Orioles -- made this city a bit more memorable.

Ryan said he was generally glad to see the last of Memorial Stadium, because he didn't have a lot of success against many of the teams Earl Weaver managed there.

"He had a tendency to run a lot of left-handed hitters out there, with contact hitters that ran a lot," Ryan said.

"Coming in here, you knew it was going to be a tough day."

When asked about Orioles hitters he had the most difficulty with, Ryan gave two answers, one that could be reasonably expected and the other a relative surprise.

Center fielder Mike Devereaux has a lifetime .348 batting average with one home run against him.

"I know what his strengths and weaknesses are, but I just haven't had much success with him," Ryan said of Devereaux.

Ryan said the other Baltimore batter who gave him trouble was former shortstop Mark Belanger, a .228 hitter in 17 years in the majors.

Ryan's problem with Belanger wasn't his power, but his ability to do the little things, such as when he broke up Ryan's bid for a second consecutive no-hitter in the eighth inning of a game on July 19, 1973, four days after he had pitched a no-hitter against Detroit.

"He got hits. He'd hit toppers and all the little stuff," Ryan said. "He drove me nuts."

RYAN VS. ORIOLES

Nolan Ryan has gotten better with age, at least against the Orioles. When he was with the California Angels in the 1970s, and when he came back to the American League with Texas in 1989, he usually had a tough time with the Orioles. But all that changed in the 1990s:

Dec. .. .. Rec. .. .. ERA .. G .. BB .. SO

'70s .. .. 5-12 .. .. 4.02 ..22 ..107 ..168

'80s .. .. 0-3 .. .. ..7.45 ..3 .. 13 .. 28

'90s .. .. 5-1 .. .. ..2.76 ..7 .. 21 .. 41

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