End of Extra Innings at Globe Life Park, Arlington Texas, August 2014 – Sully Baseball Daily Photo at Noon for January 7, 2018

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At a work event in Texas, I went to a ballgame in 2014 with 2 co workers. One was a big Rangers fan. The other hated baseball. The game went into extra innings. The Rangers won on a bases loaded walk.

Fittingly, the Rangers honored Kenny Rogers before the game, who ended the 1999 NLCS with a bases loaded walk.

Texas Rangers Team Picture 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 11, 2017

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The Texas Rangers were always a strange team in my life growing up. I almost never saw them play and because they did not make the post season until 1996, when I was 24 years old, there didn’t seem to be a lot of moments when the Rangers were in the national spotlight.

And yet they always seemed to appear in my packs of baseball cards and they never did have a shortage of familiar names on their teams. Sometimes those names had originated from more familiar teams.

As a Red Sox fan who saw a lot of Yankee games in 1979, it was odd to hear that both Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers, two life long Yankees as far as I was concerned, were traded to the Texas Rangers.

The club in 1979, as pictured in this 1980 card, had no shortage of interesting figures. Along with Rivers and Lyle, Dock Ellis pitched a few games there. So did future White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer and the always smiling Jim Kern.

Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins led the rotation. Doyle Alexander, a solid pitcher who was traded for a Hall of Famer also contributed. Familiar veterans named like Danny Darwin and Jon Matlack were there.

The lineup featured two former guests of my podcast, Bump Wills and Billy Sample. Richie Zisk and Al Oliver were also there for pop.

In all, seemed like a solid team. And with the Royals having an off year in 1979, it would stand to reason that this Rangers team would have been primed to win their first ever Division Title.

The squad jumped ahead with a 12-7 start and after a good May, entered June if first place by themselves. They slumped badly in mid June but finished the month but then went on an 11-1 run to get back into first. Their lone loss was a 13-12 defeat in 15 innings by the A’s.

It would be their last stand. After starting July in first place, they finished July in third, 4 1/2 games out. A blistering end of the season was too little too late as the Angels clinched the West. A losing season in 1980 sealed manager Pat Corrales’ fate.

I do love the old font on the Rangers uniforms and the Texas style scoreboard in the background.

But as the Rangers continue to look for their first ever title, this 1979 squad missed out on what could have been.

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.

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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.

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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.