New Nolan Ryan book details why he didn’t end career with Angels

Baseball legend Nolan Ryan waits on the field before the start of a game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros on April 1.
(Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Buzzie Bavasi has long been blamed as the man responsible for letting Nolan Ryan leave the Angels in 1979.

Bavasi, then the team’s general manager, played hardball with the game’s hardest thrower with the insulting quote that all he needed was two 8-7 pitchers to replace Ryan.

It was reference to Ryan’s 16-14 season of 1979.

Ryan, after eight seasons in Anaheim in which he twice won 20 games, pitched four no-hitters and broke Sandy Koufax’s single-season strikeout record, left the Angels for his hometown Houston Astros.

Bavasi never found those two 8-7 pitchers. Ryan’s eight-year record in Anaheim was 138-121 with an ERA of 3.09.

He pitched 156 of his career 222 complete games under a Halo cap.


The lackluster Angels backed him by averaging 1.95 runs in his 121 losses, 60 times scoring one run or fewer.

Had Ryan stayed, he likely would have been the first (and only) player in franchise history to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Angel.

But a new book about Ryan, called “Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher,” by Rob Goldman, a onetime Angel batboy and longtime Ryan family friend, details how there was also a woman to blame:

Ruth Ryan.

After nine years with Houston, Nolan Ryan had an offer to return to the Angels in 1989. Franchise owner Gene Autry was desperate to reverse Bavasi’s Blunder and make sure Ryan entered the HOF as an Angel.

Goldman writes: “According to Ruth, Jackie Autry, Gene’s wife, was on the phone constantly pleading the Angels’ case.”

Jackie Autry told the Ryans the Angels would top any free agent offer.

Ruth Ryan, however, did not want to uproot her family again.

“At this point I just can’t up and leave home again,” Ruth Ryan she told her husband.

The rest is history: Ryan finished his last five years with the Texas Rangers, retiring at age 46 in 1993.

He solidified his hall of fame career at Texas, where he pitched his sixth and seventh no-hitters and recorded the last of his major league record 5,714 strikeouts.

Ryan finished his career with 324 wins and was inducted into the hall of fame in 1999.

He went to Cooperstown wearing a Texas Rangers’ cap.