Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

March 21, 2014

Morgan: There's no one like Nolan

Corsicana — I love football. I started watching the Cowboys in their first year of existence in 1960, although I must admit, at age 10 I didn’t know the difference between the NFL and the AFL. In that first season, my favorite local team was the Dallas Texans.  I can’t lay that off entirely on age.

Four years later, I concluded that The Dave Clark Five would prevail over the Beatles as the top new rock band on the scene. Then as an adult, I bought a Betamax and a Hummer. Oh, well …

Of course, I was a basketball coach for 24 years, so you might assume that right now I’m devouring everything involving March Madness. That is where you would be wrong.

However, you wouldn’t be alone in that assumption. I got a call from another retired basketball coach last week to see if I wanted to do a bracket. I have never done a bracket.

In the era of “one and done” college players, those who play the obligatory one year of college basketball before they can be drafted to play in the NBA, I don’t have much interest. I consider myself a basketball purist. In other words, I’m old and out of date. I still revere the John Wooden UCLA dynasty days.

I still harken back to the days when players played college ball for four years. In this era today, you don’t know the names of the outstanding college players until they hit the NBA.

I occasionally watch the Mavericks, but that’s mostly because I want to watch Dirk. Watching the big German is like witnessing history.

Watching the dead solid lock-to-make-the-Hall-of-Fame player is right up there with attending the 1984 Republican Convention and seeing Ronald Reagan give his acceptance speech live and in person.

Dirk and the Gipper are both on my personal Mount Rushmores.

However, my real passion is baseball, a sport I never coached. My love of baseball goes all the way back to second grade when that was the activity of choice at every recess from then all the way through the eighth grade.

Prior to 1960, the only football games I had ever seen were high school games. I had never attended a basketball game. Oh, but baseball …. Every Saturday afternoon I could turn on Channel 4, watch the New York Yankees play whomever and listen to the commentary of Peewee Reese and Dizzy Dean. Want to know the everyday starting lineup of the 1960 or ‘61 Yankees? I can still rattle if off.    

While there were many legendary players over the years, a few stood out above the rest: Mickey Mantle, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Stan Musial, and at the very top of my personal list, Nolan Ryan.

There was just something about a native Texan throwing 100 mph and recording more no hitters that anyone in history. The fact that he ended his career as a Texas Ranger sealed his spot atop my list.

    Of all the boneheaded moves that previous Ranger owner Tom Hicks made (as in billions to A Fraud), I have to give him credit on one move …no, make that two moves.

Hicks hired both Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan. Jon Daniels is truly a baseball savant. I feel sure that Daniels’ office is covered in spread sheets showing statistics of hundreds of baseball players that you and I have never heard of. I bet he has secret mathematical formulas that are more closely guarded than the original recipe for Coca Cola or Barack Obama’s college transcript.

Nolan, on the other hand, was the face of the franchise. Over the past several seasons, there was something comforting about looking just to the first base side of home plate and seeing Nolan and Ruth Ryan sitting on the front row often with former Ranger owner and President of the United States, George W. Bush.

Although I doubt the Ryan Express had any secret formulas, it gave me a certain confidence that Wash could easily ask him a question, or that if Mike Maddux needed reinforcement with what he told the staff he had to go no more than 40 feet from the dugout.

Now the former Met/Angel/Astro/Ranger pitching legend is gone. Nolan Ryan all beef hot dogs will now be the featured attraction at Minute Made Park in Houston. The Rangers’ newest division rival and competitor for the Silver Boot will now benefit from the presence of the Ryan clan.

I still pull for the Rangers. Wash is still my favorite manager in baseball. I’m sure that J.D. will continue with his magical formula and all will be good at Globe Life Park (the worst name in professional sports).

But, it just won’t be quite the same. Maybe during the seventh inning stretch, I’ll just play a little “Glad All Over” from the Dave Clark Five and reminisce.

 

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