Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mr. 5000

One of the coolest baseball accomplishments that has happened during my lifetime was Nolan Ryan's 5000th strikeout.  Ryan reached that plateau during the summer of 1989 and almost 25 years later is still the only player with that many strikeouts.  Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens climbed over 4,000 along with Steve Carlton, but all of them are still over 1,000 behind Nolan Ryan.  All summer long baseball fans kept an eye on Ryan as he inched closer to the magically number of 5000. 

I actually had a chance to attend a Rangers game that summer when my parents attended a conference for work in Fort Worth.  We made the trek over to Arlington and watched a Rangers game.  The old Arlington Stadium was not a very nice place to watch a game.  Metal bleachers in Texas in the summer.  Not so much.  We missed Nolan Ryan's turn in the rotation, but he was still over a month away from passing the 5000 mark.  I still got to see some cool players including Sammy Sosa hitting lead-off...

Nolan Ryan would reach the mark on August 22, 1989 when he struck out Oakland A's Hall of Fame outfielder Rickey Henderson.  Pretty specatular moment and achievement in baseball history.  Here's what it looked like:

Card companies captured the moment on cardboard in 1990.  There were several different cards that were put out to commemorate the achievement.  I featured the 1990 Upper Deck card a few weeks back during my Top 50 On Cardboard countdown, giving that card a slight edge over some of the other cards put out that summer.  That doesn't mean that the others weren't cool.  Here's a quick look at another set of Ryan tribute cards from the summer of 1990. 

1990 Topps Nolan Ryan

Topps had actually made a set of Pete Rose tribute cards in 1986, but thankfully they varied the Nolan Ryan cards.  The Rose cards featured pictures of all the Pete Rose cards in between 1963 and 1986 with a blurb about each year on the back of the card.  The Ryan tribute set in 1990 still spanned his entire career and gave collectors a recap of his career, but the cards were really cool.  

The design of the tribute cards followed the basic design of the 1990 set, but Topps made a Ryan card for every team he had played for during his career.  Ryan also had a basic Rangers card in the set, which was a nice looking card, but the four tribute cards were the best four cards in the 1990 Topps set.  

The backs of the cards did not have a year by year breakdown, but rather just featured Nolan Ryan's highlights with that team.  The Mets card is a little short on highlights, but the other three have a great list of accomplishments that are worth reading through for any baseball fan.  Yes, I am advocating for reading the back of a baseball card.  

One of the best things about this set of Nolan Ryan cards, outside of their cool looks, is the fact that they are easy to find and rather inexpensive.  The whole set of four cards can easily be found on Ebay and will often cost collectors less than $5 to pick up all four cards.  Better yet, check around and see if you can find a box of 1990 Topps.  There is gum in the packs and you can just pull your own copies of the Ryan cards.  Tons of card shops have old Topps boxes from the early 90s and late 80s cheap and they are fun to open.  


  1. Great post and I actually watched the entire silly pack war at the end. Way too many points just for facial hair.

  2. That wax pack tournament looked fun. Who won?

    1. The final round comes down to Mitchell Boggs and Mike Aldrete. Aldrete wins. There is a good episode where Aldrete and Mark McGwire play each other. Maybe the best video of the bunch. It's on the FOXSportsMidwest channel on YouTube.