They had come to say farewell, 60,000 strong, and it was almost as if no one had ever left.
Nolan Ryan gave up only four hits.
He held the opposition to one run. It was unearned.
He received one run’s worth of offensive support. It was not enough.
He left to a standing ovation . . . and a no decision.
His team lost, 2-1.
And earlier in the day, the Angels announced they were firing their general manager.
It was 1977, all over again.
This was to be Ryan’s last appearance inside the house he built, filled and thrilled until Buzzie Bavasi booted him out in late 1979--and who knows, maybe Buck Rodgers is right when he says Ryan might not have lasted 27 years in the major leagues if he had stayed in Anaheim.
Games such as Friday’s would have driven him out of the sport a good decade ago.
To the end, Ryan and Anaheim maintained their love-hate relationship. You always loved the idea of Ryan pitching here, but always hated to see what eventually happened to him.
This time a throwing error got him. By his catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, who merely won the American League Gold Glove last season.
As soon as the ball sailed over second base, you knew. Angel base-stealer Luis Polonia was headed for third and he certainly wasn’t destined to stay there for long.
Like clockwork, the next batter, Chad Curtis, drove a fly ball to mid-depth center field. Polonia tagged, Polonia scored, Ryan’s 1-0 lead was gone in the bottom of the sixth inning and gone for good.
An inning later, Ryan would be gone, too, his 1-1 tie left to be protected by mere mortals. And get this: The bullpen blew it.
Perhaps sensing what was in store, the Anaheim Stadium crowd called out Ryan for a double encore as soon as he hit the Texas dugout. One shake of the cap. And another. And then he ducked back down, never to be seen in these parts again, leaving the fans only with their memories and their Saturday morning trips to Fotomat.
It really wasn’t Flashbulb Night at the Big A, although Polonia, the Angels’ leadoff batter, had to wonder as he took his first swings of the game. Ryan kicks and deals . . . and dozens of camera lights pop in the outfield bleachers. It looked like a Springsteen concert. Poor Luis, what could he do? He swung at the closest white flash to him and was a quick strikeout victim.