Nolan Ryan Has Plenty of Power Left
The startling news that Nolan Ryan was rushed to the
hospital and had undergone double by-pass surgery this past Easter Sunday
was a surprise to sports fans everywhere.
Ryan always seemed indestructible.
It was especially surprising news for me for I had
gotten to know Nolan and his family so well when I wrote his autobiography
"Throwing Heat" back in 1988. Of course, today he is 53 years
old. Though all of us are vulnerable, Nolan has to be one of the least
likely candidates for such a condition. He seems bigger than life.
But Nolan will get past this and back on his feet - he
is the consummate survivor and, unlike so many other celebrities, what you
see is what you get.
In my initial stage of working with Nolan, he suggested
I call some of the people who knew him well and interview them. One of the
names on the list was Red Murff, the tall Texan who had been a New York
Mets scout and discovered Nolan when he was pitching in a high school game
in Alvin, Texas. I called Murff from my hotel room in Houston and told him
what I was about.
"You stay right where you are," he said,
laying on the Texas drawl. "Who do you think you are calling me and
telling me in that New York City accent that you want me to talk to you
about Nolan? How do I know you're telling the truth?"
"Give me your phone number," he continued
before I had a chance to respond. "I'm going to call Nolan and find
out about you - and you better be telling the truth."
A few minutes later, my phone rang. "Sir, I am so
sorry." The drawl had softened considerably. "I spoke to Nolan.
You are the real deal. But, you know, we have to protect this man from
phonies. What can I do for you?"
The book turned out to be Nolan's story told in his
words and those of his family, friends, teammates and opponents. The idea
of including these other voices came from his sister who early on asked,
"How can you have a whole book told by Nolan? He's not too much of a
Traveling to major league cities and ballparks with
Nolan Ryan and interviewing the likes of Whitey Herzog, Dale Murphy, Pete
Rose, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Brooks Robinson, etc., I
was able to get remarkable perceptions, insights and comments about the
man they called "The Ryan Express." But even more remarkable
were the players on opposing teams who came over to me and asked:
"What is Nolan Ryan really like?"
He had a special quiet mystique, and an aura that only a
100-mile-per-hour fastball can give. He was always looked upon as a player
in a class by himself.
Nolan was and is all of that, but he is also an
authentic American hero, a man highly loyal to friends. He is also a
family man who takes pride in a long marriage (since 1967) to his
intelligent and beautiful wife Ruth, and in his three children, Reese,
Reid and Wendy.
Since writing "Throwing Heat", I have gone on
to write quite a few more books. But my personal copy of "Thowing
Heat" has always remained on a prominent place on my bookshelf. And
Nolan has retained a special place in my memory.
Always the soft spoken Texas gentleman, never
egotistical, Nolan was a wonderful person to be around and to work with. I
enjoyed the pleasure of his company.
Get well, Nolan. You still have a lot to do with your life.
Frommer is the author of the classic "New York City Baseball
1947-1957: The Last Golden Age and of Nolan Ryan's autobiography
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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