with tomorrow being canada day, i figured tonight was a good time to show a card that was one of my favorites from 2014:
this stadium club roy halladay card, featuring the late hall-of-famer throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at a blue jays game with royal canadian mounted police lurking in the background was one of my favorite cards issued that year. a couple of years prior, i went to see the rcmp musical ride in saskatchewan which featured by far the most mounties i had ever seen in one place (more than at expo '86 in vancouver even), but my mountie cousin was not in attendance unfortunately.
if only there were a beaver or the canadian flag on the card as well. happy canada day!
i wouldn't have thought it possible when i first started following baseball and collecting cards in the late 1970's, but when i think of nolan ryan, i think of him as an astro. of course, he ended his career with the rangers, and i chose card over team in this case. he's in my hall of famer collection with this card as his entry:
that's a 2001 fleer greats of the game autograph. here's the back:
my first memories of ryan are of him as a california angel, although my dad remembered him as a met (he saw ryan pitch in person at dodger stadium on june 5, 1971 - steve garvey hit career home run number 4 that day). as for me, i was disappointed when ryan left the angels for the astros prior to the 1980 season, partly because the angels had finally made the postseason in 1979, but mostly because he was now in the same division as the dodgers and joining a rotation that already had jr richard.
my concerns were validated despite richard's career-ending stroke as ryan won two games in the last week of september, and the dodgers entered the final weekend of the 1980 season in second place, trailing the astros by 3 games with 3 games to play in a head-to-head series at dodger stadium. the dodgers won the first game on a 10th-inning walk-off joe ferguson home run, and then beat ryan in the second game 2-1, with a steve garvey solo home run being the difference in the game. the dodgers also won game 3 thanks to a two-run ron cey home run in the late innings - don sutton got the final out for the save! of course, the dodgers got killed in game 163 - a game i convinced my 5th grade teacher to let us watch in the classroom, and then later told him he could turn it off after the fourth inning.
ryan and the astros fell to the phillies in the nlcs that year, and then lost to the dodgers in the divison series in the strike-shortened 1981 season. during the 1981 regular season, however, ryan threw his fifth no-hitter against the dodgers, breaking sandy koufax's record in the process. i watched most of that game on tv, but went outside to play wiffle ball in the hopes that my absence would remedy the dodgers' inability to get a hit. when my dad came outside a while later, he broke the news that ryan had completed the no-hitter.
a couple of years later, i was tracking ryan's progress in the box scores as he approached and passed walter johnson's 3,508 career strikeout mark, and i continued to follow his career even as he left the astros for the rangers after the 1988 season. after he retired and his final career stats were compiled, i took some solace in the fact that the dodgers beat him more times (19) than any other franchise, even though he had an era of 2.97 against them. ryan is, of course, the all-time leader in career strikeouts with 5,714 which seems untouchable even though batters are striking out at historic rates these days. the active pitcher with the most strikeouts today is justin verlander, and he is 2,701 k's behind ryan.
i never did see ryan pitch in person which is a shame. i came close three times, but was literally a day late on two of those occasions. yes, ryan pitched the night before the first game i attended at the big a in 1979, as well as the night before the game i attended at dodger stadium to see the astros in april of 1980. then, in 1991, he started the game after the one i saw between the rangers and angels on september 11, 1991. still, i had plenty of other opportunities to see him pitch - in fact, ryan's second-to-last big league appearance was a start against the angels at the big a in september of 1993, while i was working late in an office about 15 miles away.
here's my hall of famer collection as its been documented so far:
babe ruth - 2003 topps tribute world series edition world series tribute relic 351/425
honus wagner - 2001 topps tribute relic
nap lajoie - 2002 topps tribute milestone materials relic
tris speaker - 2011 topps tribute dual relic green parallel 53/75
eddie collins - 2002 topps tribute milestone materials relic
george sisler - 2004 topps tribute hall of fame tribute relic
lou gehrig - 2010 topps tribute relic 96/99
rogers hornsby - 2004 topps tribute hall of fame tribute relic