19 years ago yesterday on August 4, 1993, Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura charged the mound to retaliate against legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan for being hit in the ribs by a fastball at Arlington Stadium in Texas.
Never vacating the mound, the 46-year-old rugged Texan wrapped the 26-year-old Ventura in a head lock and landed six punches to the top of the Southern Californian’s dome.
For inciting ESPN’s Number One Baseball fight of all time, Ventura was ejected from the game.
Comically, although winning a unanimous decision versus the boy 20-years his junior, Ryan remained on the hill and subsequently retired twelve of the next thirteen batters that came to the plate.
Ryan, who made his debut as a professional in September 1966 for the New York Mets and retired in the autumn of 1993 as a Ranger, had anticipated this moment since 1980 when he refused to scrap Dave Winfield and instead allowed the mammoth athlete to throw a few swings while staying huddled on the ground to protect his prized pitching arm.
“I decided I was going to be the aggressor,” said Ryan, 65, who compiled a mark of 324-292 and recorded the most career strikeouts in the history of the sport with 5,714. “I wasn’t going to just take it.”
Following the embarrassing loss to a quasi geriatric, the current manager of the White Sox defiantly claimed he’d fight anyone and dismissed the soon-to-be widespread notion he was battered.
“It’s no secret that he was throwing at me, and I have to do what I have to do to protect myself and I don’t care who it is,” said Ventura, 45, who amassed 294 homers and 1,182 RBI in 15 major league seasons before retiring as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in October 2004. “I’m all right. He gave me a couple of noogies, but that was about it.”
Ryan, the current principal owner, president and CEO of the Rangers, made the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999 and later that summer was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate an astounding 27-year career.
Despite countless achievements with his arm, Nolan Ryan, an eight-time All-Star selection who tossed a record seven no-hitters, ironically may be best remembered for his bruising fists.
“The Ryan Express” was a tremendous ride and, fairly or unfairly, one of its most memorable moments occurred nearly two decades ago this week.by