Nolan Ryan Record Breaker Cards 1978, 1988 and 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Cards of the Day for November 17, 2017

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There is an amazing alternate reality in history where Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan are teammates for life as members of the New York Mets.

Seaver was still an effective pitcher into the mid 1980’s. Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts in 1990 at age 43. They could have rewritten the record book side by side from the 1969 World Series, throughout the 1970’s and into the 1980’s.

Instead both were traded away in deals that were nothing short of disastrous for the Mets.

The Mets drafted Lynn Nolan Ryan out of Alvin Texas High School in 1965. He made a pair of appearances in 1966 before getting to the big leagues for good in 1968.

He was a spot starter and reliever for the 1969 World Champions. He got the save that clinched the NLCS and won the pennant for the Mets. Later, he won Game 3 of the World Series in relief.

Ryan, along with Seaver and company, was a World Champion. He got that checked off his resume at age 22.

Then after the 1971 season, the Mets decided they had enough pitching and needed to shore up their infield. Jim Fregosi came over to the Mets from the Angels. Ryan was one of multiple players sent to Anaheim.

There his career exploded.

I wrote about his career in a blog post back in 2013. I compared him to George Harrison. Trust me, it made sense to me.

But I can think of no better way of demonstrating how wide spread the trade backfired on the Mets than these three record breaking cards. One was issued in the 1970’s, one in the 1980’s and one in the 1990’s as he remained dominant for all those years after he was shipped off.

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In 1977, he broke Sandy Koufax’s record of most games with 10 or more strikeouts. Koufax’s mark was 97. Ryan finished with 104 at the end of 1977. Keep in mind he would pitch for 15 more seasons. He would finish with 148 games of 10 or more strikeouts… in the American League.

The grand total he would reach is 215 when his years with the Mets and Astros are included.

Inexplicably, I tried to draw beard on his face on this 1978 Topps card. Don’t ask me why.


In 1988, Topps issued THIS Record Breaker card to commemorate Ryan passing 200 or more strikeouts for the 11th time in his career. That would set the all time mark.

To add insult to injury, the pitcher he passed was Tom Seaver. He would eventually pass 200 strikeouts 15 times in his career.


The final record breaker card honors his 5000th strikeout. He would fan Rickey Henderson no less to reach that mark. To be fair, this highlight would also be in the 1980’s but he would win the 1990 strikeout crown and throw another no hitter in that decade.

Nobody else in history has fanned 5,000 for their career. Randy Johnson’s 4,875 has come closest. And that is a far cry from Ryan’s final tally of 5,714.

Ryan won 324 games, 295 of them for teams other than the Mets. All of these records could have been set in Flushing. He would have been a New York legend.

Instead he had to settle for one of the most famous and beloved stars in the history of baseball and a first ballot Hall of Famer.

A little more value than say Jim Fregosi.

Highlights: Jim Deshaies Sets ML Strikeout Record 1986 Donrus – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 6, 2017


Let’s address the elephant in the room with this card. It is a 1986 Donruss Card. It says so in the upper left hand corner.

And yet this is a record that was set in 1986. This must be an update set from the end of the year. OTHERWISE Donruss had the incredible ability to predict records when they issued their cards at the start of the year.

One thing is certain. NOBODY could have predicted this record.

The 1986 Astros had the greatest strikeout artist in history, Nolan Ryan, on their roster. Mike Scott struck out 306 batters that year en route to the Cy Young Award. Veteran Bob Knepper also was on the squad.

But 26 year old Jim Deshaies set an unusual strikeout record down the stretch in their near pennant season.

Deshaies was from upstate New York and came up in the Yankees organization. But because he was a prospect during the 1980’s for the Yankees, he needed to be traded for an aging veteran. So he was packaged to the Astros for ageless Joe Niekro in 1984.

In 1986, he was still technically a rookie and he blossomed with the Astros. He made 26 starts, posting a 12-5 record and a 3.25 ERA over 144 innings. He had a few dazzling starts, including taking a shutout to 2 outs in the 9th inning with 9 strikeouts against the Pirates before getting relief help to nail the 1-0 win.

Then came the game of his life.

On September 23, 1986, he faced the defending NL West champion Dodgers who were struggling through a disappointing season. The games was at the Astrodome.

He struck out Steve Sax, Reggie Williams and Enos Cabell to start the game.

The Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the first to give Deshaies a 2-0 lead.

In the second, Deshaies struck out Pedro Guerrero, Alex Trevino and Jeff Hamilton.

In the third, Dave Anderson and Jose Gonzalez struck out to make it 8 men up, 8 men struck out. Pitcher Dennis Powell was up next to make number 9 a snap. Instead, Dodger manager Tom Lasorda went to his bench early and Larry See came up as a pinch hitter. He popped up, but actually put the ball in play. The strikeout streak was over.

In the end, he threw a complete game 2 hit shutout for the 4-0 victory. He struck out 10 Dodgers in all for his 10th win.

The 8 batters struck out to start a game was a Major League record, and earned him a Topps and evidently a Donruss Card to honor the feat.

He pitched through October but did not pitch in the post season. I do not know why. They would have used him in the 16 inning marathon Game 6 against the Mets. Maybe he was hurt.

Either way, Deshaies stayed with Houston for the next 5 seasons, peaking in 1989 with 15 wins and a 2.91 ERA over 225 2/3 innings.

After bouncing between the Twins, Giants and Phillies between 1992 and 1995, he called it a career.

Deshaies has had a successful broadcasting career. He was in the Houston booth and now calls games for the Cubs.

I wonder if Lasorda knew that Deshaies had already set the strikeout record when he made the pinch hitting decision. I wonder if it would have gone on to double digits.

Either way, Deshaies is in the record book, pinch hitter or none.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – June 26, 2016



It is Sunday and time for the Sunday Request.


That Nolan Ryan season showed how I was ahead of the curve in 1987 and still behind the curve now.

It is a By The Numbers episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

Jose Altuve, Carlos Carrasco, Andrew McCutchen, Drew Pomeranz, Michael Bourn, Brett Lawrie and Julio Teheran all added to their totals for Who Owns Baseball yesterday.

See the updated listing of WOB on MLB Reports

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