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Bavasi Still Takes the Heat for Letting Ryan Get Away

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Buzzie Bavasi, the man who let Nolan Ryan get away from the Angels, sent him a note Tuesday in the wake of the pitcher’s record sixth no-hitter.

It read: “Nolan, some time ago, I made it public that I made a mistake. You don’t have to rub it in.”

Bavasi, then the Angels’ general manager, allowed Ryan to become a free agent in 1979 after the two failed to agree on a new contract.

“I could live with the salary his agent, Dick Moss, was asking,” Bavasi said Tuesday from La Jolla, where he is living in retirement. “It was the other things I couldn’t live with. There were incentive things like innings pitched. Things not based on performance. Things that many players could have accomplished. If we had given it to him, it would have opened up a real Pandora’s box.

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“But although I’m writing to Nolan tongue in cheek, I want to make sure he knows I was responsible (for Ryan leaving), not (owner) Gene Autry. A mistake was made, but I was the one who made it.

“I always thought Sandy Koufax was the best I ever saw. But I’ve got to put Nolan Ryan right next to him. He’s a remarkable young man.”

That’s not what Bavasi was saying 11 years ago when Ryan took his fastball to Houston. Ryan was coming off a 16-14 season with the Angels. Asked how he would replace the right-hander, Bavasi replied: “You mean, where can I find two 8-7 pitchers?”

He found several of those. But somehow, it just wasn’t the same.

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