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Nolan Ryan, Pro Sports Longevity Master, and Achieving Longevity With Weight Lifting

Updated on March 6, 2018
Nolan Ryan carried off the field by adoring teammates after yet another record no-hitter.
Nolan Ryan carried off the field by adoring teammates after yet another record no-hitter.

Nolan Ryan, A Master Physical Specimen

Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr. is one of the most amazing physical specimens to have ever lived. The things that Nolan Ryan accomplished and proved possible in his record 27 year Major League Baseball career as a player will probably never be matched or exceeded. Now, it's certainly true that Nolan Ryan was physically, and genetically talented; but many, many baseball players have come and have gone that were just as physically talented as Nolan Ryan; but only Nolan Ryan has the kind of statistics that nobody else ever has, or ever will rival.

Having exceptional physical ability is certainly something that can not be learned; however, there are many, many things that Nolan Ryan did learn that allowed him to reach statistical and performance levels that are so outrageous as to be discouraging, surely, for most with the same level of physical ability. What's the difference between Nolan Ryan, and someone like, Dwight Gooden, or Roger Clemens? Well, besides the physical ability, continued performance on the level like that that Nolan Ryan displayed into his mid 40's, takes a dedication to training and conditioning that must come from within.

You have to have the drive, the competitive spirit, the will to overcome. Dwight Gooden had every bit the physical ability of Nolan Ryan; and so did Roger Clemens. It could be argued, and often is, that Roger Clemens was the best pitcher of the modern age. Does the Roger Clemens winning percentage and Cy Young awards prove his superiority over Nolan Ryan? Sure, Roger Clemens has some statistically amazing seasons, but if you are just looking to be impressed by power, you look more at Nolan Ryan than you do Roger Clemens.

Ryan threw harder for longer, also had one of the greatest curve balls in the history of baseball, and had to make fewer adjustments in his style in order to pitch for more seasons than Roger Clemens did. Though Roger Clemens had outstanding control, and plenty of velocity, He never threw a no hitter at all, and Ryan's seven no hitters spaced out over so many seasons clearly indicate that Ryan was a more powerful and dominating pitcher over more seasons than Clemens was in even his best seasons.

My issue with Roger Clemens is that he'd cheated in his career via substances, just like Barry Bonds did, Jose Canseco did, and many, many others did. Nolan Ryan has never been accused of having chemically cheated; the person that his team mates, and others around him in the MLB community knew him to be precludes such an outrageous accusation upon his character. Everyone who ever knew him knew how hard he'd worked. His physical workout routine was the thing that legends are made on, all on it's own.

Nolan Ryan With The Texas Rangers, and Nolan Ryan With The California Angels


In 1986 I was twelve years old, and my sister graduated from high school, got married; and so the control of the family living room television went to me. I promptly met my first love, and started watching every last Texas Ranger's baseball game that I could. The Texas Rangers were always a horrible team, but the 1986 season was pretty special for them, and it was a special season in the history of Major league Baseball. People like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Jose Canseco first became public figures in 1986, and the World Series that year was spectacular.

Everyone always will remember Bill Buckner's error, Bill Buckner was one of the finest first basemen that ever lived; but the one ball that went through his legs haunts him still. He and his family had to move out of Boston. Prior to that, when Boston barely beat out the Angels to represent the American League in the World Series. the Angels closer, Donnie Moore, would later kill himself from the label of "goat." An athlete is nothing more than an entertainer; and it's hard being an entertainer playing a kids game. It's harder still to compete against the greatest athletes in the world at an advanced age, and make them look like fools time and again; but that's what Nolan Ryan did for several years after that time. In 1987 Ryan had one of the most dominating years a pitcher had ever had, but had a losing record due to the horrible offense that Houston's Astros had had.

In mid season 1986, the annual All Star Game was held in the Houston Astrodome, and I've still got the thing on a VCR tape, I only no longer have a VCR to play it on. Who does anymore, right? Anyway, in that game Roger Clemens faced Dwight Gooden for the first three innings. Clemens was setting the world on fire with his pitching, and he continued to do so. Dwight Gooden, I believe, was in his third spectacular year for the New York Mets, and was still the youngest player in the National League. Close attention was being paid during that game to the radar gun, and everyone knew that Dwight and Roger would be airing it out. Gooden threw more pitches over 95 mph than Roger did, but mainly because he threw more pitches. Clemens threw three perfect innings against the National League. Regardless, both of those guys, and everyone in the stands knew that the man who dominated that particular pitching mound on a regular basis, Lynn Nolan Ryan, though far older, and not invited to that game, regularly out did either and all in the "most pitches above 95 mph" category.

Nolan Ryan With The Houston Astros, The First Million Dollar Per Year Athlete


The Ryan Express

Now, in 1986, when I was just twelve years old; I was already cognizant of the name of Nolan Ryan. I doubt that I even knew that that was someone that still played Major League Baseball, I just knew then that he was a famous baseball player. I fell into the habit of watching other teams besides my Texas Rangers, and one Saturday, the Saturday afternoon game of the week, from one of the three major networks, featured the Houston Astros, playing against some other team; and there on the mound was Nolan Ryan.

I have no recollection of the outcome of the game on that day, the first time that I'd saw Nolan Ryan pitch on television, but I'll never forget how impressed I was to hear him seemingly scream, and curse. When Ryan would throw his legendary fastball, his whole body coiled up like a vertical snake, and then struck towards the batters box horizontally like a cobra strike explosion; and somewhere in between all of that, should there have been a microphone near the field, and aimed in the direction of the mound or the batters box, you'd hear Ryan scream.


You knew that if you'd heard that scream, then "the Ryan Express" had been delivered to the plate, and more often than not, it made contact only with the catcher's mitt, and then everyone's eyes would head on over to the radar gun display.

An Older Nolan Ryan With The Texas Rangers - Over Forty Years Old, And Throwing Very Hard


Nolan Ryan, on Weight Training

Although I came into pro ball with a lot of talent, it took me almost four years to approach my potential as a power pitcher. In my first season with the Angels, I was 19-16 with 39 starts, 20 complete games, an ERA of 2.28, 9 shutouts and 329 strikeouts in 284 innings.

I had 17 games in which I struck out 10 or more batters. But something more important happened that year that would affect my performance for the next 23 years - I discovered the weight room in Anaheim.

It hadn't been installed for the Angels, because back then it was believed that weight training made you muscle bound. I started slipping in there and working out, being careful not to overdo it and letting my body tell me how it was responding.

I learned how to work different areas of my body for balance and flexibility, taking a day off now and then to recover. I also discovered that even if I was somewhat stiff from lifting, it really had no effect on my ability to pitch. And after I began using the weights consistently, my arm would bounce back more quickly from one start to the next.

A key to my success with the Angels was that my velocity increased in the later innings. Now, this could be attributed to establishing a rhythm, finding a good groove and improving my mechanics as the game went on. But the conditioning program made this possible by increasing my stamina.

Once you fatigue, it affects your mechanics and you can't pitch with the precise timing required for a smooth, compact motion. I was so pleased with my results that I bought a Universal Gym for my home, and it paid dividends. During my first 3 years in the AL, I pitched more than 900 innings. There's no way I could have recovered quickly, or been as durable, without a firm base of strength from lifting. Lifting helped me be more consistent.

Nolan Ryan Beats Up Robin Ventura


Nolan Ryan's Pitcher's Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Power, Precision, and Long-Term Performance

Weight Training and Longevity

As Nolan clearly told us himself up above, weight training was frowned upon during his "prime" years during the MLB seasons of the 1970s, but that didn't dissuade him any from doing it. Nolan saw first hand what it did for him, and wouldn't he know better than anyone else how strong he was? His statistics can't lie; but his talent was phenomenal to begin with. So what's the deal?

While it can be argued that Nolan's genetic makeup was superior for the game to, say, J.R. Richards, who was his equal in talent, but suffered some physical tragedies that took him out of baseball; what can't be argued is that many pitchers had come and gone who seemingly had as much talent as Ryan did; but only Nolan Ryan has the Major League Baseball record for seasons played, at TWENTY SEVEN years. People like Tom Seaver got fat, and retired, but Nolan continued on. Nolan has plainly stated that a big part of the reason why he stuck around so long was the money that he was making. There's nothing wrong with a healthy drive to get the most out of yourself for financial gain, especially when you're more of an inspiration than a parasite, by and large. This isn't the article for moralizing sports entertainment.

What I think is important here is how we can look at Ryan's use of weight training over the course of his career, and clearly see that though he was genetically superior for the position of a Major League Baseball pitcher, that no other pitcher has ever been able to maintain such a peak performance level over the course of their careers. Sure, Nolan Ryan had to evolve as a pitcher over time to maintain a competitive edge, that's natural, and a source of proof as to how human intelligence plays into sports success as does physical athletic gifts and the ability to maintain that physicality. It's also true that more and more these days, we are seeing young pitchers come up and into Major and Minor league ball that have demonstrated the ability to throw fastballs at a hundred miles an hour, or as many as five miles per hour more.

It's also VERY reasonable to assume that Ryan had thrown pitches at those speeds in the days before accurate radar guns were in every stadium and all of the time. What's so impressive about Nolan Ryan is that though he may have matured in the majors as a pitcher who could hit triple digits on the radar gun most every time he started, he also left the game throwing fastballs that were consistently above average for all but the upper echelon of arms in the Majors during his times. I personally witnessed the second to the last start that Nolan Ryan ever made, and that was in his final season, and final game pitched in Texas, at the no longer in existence, old Arlington Stadium. I can not recall the outcome of that game, or who Ryan and the Rangers were playing that day, but what I clearly recall is that the radar guns that day hit 96 mph on more than one occasion, and he was either 45 or 46 years old..

Nolan Ryan's 7th No-Hitter

© 2011 Wesman Todd Shaw


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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas


      I actually almost got into a fight with an old man in jail over this once, he insisted that Ryan was just an average pitcher. When Nolan pitched for the Angels, that team was awful, and with the Astros. . .his run support was abysmal as well.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Great tribute to a great pitcher. I'm sold! Truly one of the all-time pitchers in the history of baseball. OK, OK. I'll redo my greatest pitchers Hub. :D

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Micky Dee, would you believe that my five foot nine, and 155 lb butt can throw a ball very very fast?

      I can, I can throw a ball faster than most anyone my size. Fat lot of good that it's done me though.

      I think the whole "fast twitch fiber vs slow twitch fiber" theory is real. Some people are built for blitzkreig, some for endurance.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Great tribute Wes. I've loved baseball. I have NO arm at all though. Great post!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      OH ME TOO!!!!!!!!! Except I don't have any autographs, I do have an old, old Mets baseball card of Nolan, and it's worth a bit, but it's not in mint condition. I can't wait for the season to start!

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 7 years ago

      I'm a big baseball fan -- America's favorite past time!! I have several Nolan Ryan signed baseballs. Gotta love him!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey CMERRITT, I was really disappointed when writing this that I couldn't find good clips of Ryan pitching to share here. I guess MLB has their vids locked down tight, where we have to pay to see them, or something. I'd love to watch some old Nolan Ryan games from the History books/archives. I love to see a dominant power pitcher throw it past hitters, or make them look like fools with that amazing curve ball. I want to see some old games!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Tom, I'm not kidding; Jeb's got a son that is half Mexican American, and you'd best believe that he's being groomed to capture the Hispanic voting block on the conservative end!

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 7 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      WTS, I love to watch the Ryan Express....he was, without a doubt, my favorite pitcher of all time. The lesson he taught Robin Ventura is bookmarked on my computer, as my best videos to watch...

      Awesome hub, I really enjoyed it.


    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      One thing that Clemens did, of course, was have the two 20 strikeout games, and those are every bit as impressive as no hitters. . . .but they still aren't no hitters!

      Yeah, Ryan's career winning percentage isn't that great; but when you look at how bad the Angels were during the years that he was such a stud, you can easily see how his record could be a whole lot better.

      Yeah, the Brewers. . . .well, let's just say that I understand.

      I need to work on this hub a lot more; I don't like the way it reads, and there's a lot more that I should add to it.

      That big Albert Pujols (sic?) guy, he's another great one that probably never cheated, even though lots of people were using steroids when he was probably not doing that. Guess nobody but Albert would know for sure. I think MLB has got past steroids though, but I'm sure lots of players are still thinking about and trying ways to get ahead of the rest with substances that haven't been banned yet.

      I'm itching for baseball season to start, it's about the only thing I'll watch on television!

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 7 years ago from West Allis

      WTS, you might have known some futility with the Rangers, but I got the Brewers. Milwaukee is a baseball town but the boys of summer here have not given us much to cheer about over the years. But there is hope for this coming season. We finally have four studs in the bullpen, so we shall see.

      Ryan was indeed a great pitcher and I did have the chance to see him pitch. You are right about Clemens, that cloud will forever be over his head, like many of the players of his generation. I think, sadly, like many sports, speed has become so much a part of the game. In the end, skill and talent often get brushed aside for the development of athletes. There is no explaining why a Ryan can throw no-hitters and a Clemens can't. Even doing it once is amazing but not a career-maker. To do it several times while have hundreds of other great games shows a real skill and talent for putting the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. A pitcher that doesn't have the know-how to do that, can't simply get by on talent and speed. Peace

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Oh shit, you're kidding me!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Yep, and Jeb's got a son that they want to be big in politics too, but I don't recall his name right now.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Yeah, you'd think. Now they're talking about Jeb running.WTF? Just what the country needs, another Bush.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I remember him and his dad being at one of the Rangers' world series home games this year. Everyone was cheering. Man, I'd have boo'd them. Seems like there should have been a whole group of people booing those two.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Yeah, a frat boy cheerleader.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas


      I think he was up there drinking back in the old Arlington Stadium/ Bush as owner of the Rangers days, I remember my first impression after seeing him the first time was that he looked like an old college frat boy. . . . which. . .is exactly what he was.

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Yeah, maybe he should have stuck to baseball 'cause he sucked at politics. He threw out the first pitch at a Reds opening day and I gotta' say he fired the ball right over the plate. On a weird note the day he threw out that pitch the winning 3 digit lottery # was 911. It freaked me out!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I love going to those games. I haven't been to one in a year or two though. I've seen lots of baseball games live, all of them were the Rangers against somebody.

      I remember seeing "Dubya" Bush all the time during the late 80's, every time we went to the game he was there, and it wasn't hard to spy him in the crowd either,

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      It's baseball man, who cares, the hub's fine. I do know we play the Yankees here so we'll be at one of those games givin' them grief!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I sure am fired up, Tom, if that Brandon or Brendon, or whatever his name "Webb" has a good year, then the Rangers could have a better year than the did last year. I wonder if we'll play the Reds in inter - league play this year. We could argue about that series, that would be fun.

      I think this hub needs some improvement, but yeah, I've got baseball on the brain. :=;

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Haaaaa, you're fired up about the start of a new season of baseball and so fuckin' am I. It's all Justin and I have been talking about. The Reds are the oldest major league team so opening day here is a holiday. No shit man, people take off work, kids skip school, there's a parade, the whole nine yards and I love every minute of it. Nolan Ryan was and still is the man. Later! Tom


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