Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review - Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher

Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher by Rob Goldman (Foreword by Reid Ryan)
Hardcover: 366 pages
Publisher: Triumph Books (April 1, 2014)

Rob Goldman brings an interesting perspective to his biography of  Nolan Ryan in that he was the bat boy for the California Angels during the 1970s.

When one thinks of The Ryan Express, they think of the 100 mph fastball, over 5,700 strikeouts during a career that spanned 27 years and a historic seven no-hitters.

Ryan wrote a memoir or two but what Goldman presents is, for the first time, a comprehensive biography of one of the greatest power pitchers of all time.  Because it is the first book written about Ryan since the 1990s, it may just be the definitive biography as it goes all the way through the 2013 season when Ryan exited his post as CEO of the Texas Rangers.  Perhaps in an afterword for the paperback edition, there will be mention of his signing on with the Houston Astros as an executive advisor in early 2014.

There's some mention of Ryan's life before he was first scouted by the New York Mets but most of all that, I imagine, would have been touched upon in one of his previously published books in the 1990s.  This book, for the most part, follows Ryan's career as a player and executive.

Stories are told by some of baseball's all time greats including Dave Winfield and Pete Rose as they share their take on Ryan.  Others include journeymen, teammates, coaches, trainers, and clubhouse workers.  There are many never-before-heard stories about Ryan and personal recollections of games, including those no-hitters.

Goldman explores what made Ryan the pitcher that he became.  This coincided with his trade to the Angels in the early 1970s.  Maybe if Ryan wasn't out for so many days or weeks at a time due to his army commitments in the late 1960s, he would have done better with the Mets.  But by being out for days and weeks at a time, it just was not possible to build a pitching rhythm.

Ryan's personality on the field could not be more unlike who he was off the field.  Here's a guy that offered advice to Randy Johnson after a game against the Seattle Mariners in 1992.  Without that intervention, Johnson does not become a future Hall of Famer.

Previous books may have said what Ryan accomplished in his playing career but this one goes further in explaining how Nolan accomplished it.

There were people that were key to extending Nolan's career as a pitcher and they included Tom Morgan, Jimmie Reese, Gene Coleman, and Tom House.  Ryan was one of the early pitchers to pioneer strength and conditioning to his routine.

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