Hey, Rapoport! I haven’t read you in ages.
Ranking no-hitters may seem like a fool’s errand. Greatness is greatness and this sort of example doesn’t happen very often. Why not leave it at that?
But when a pitcher ascends toward the upper echelon of strikeout potential and pitches a no-hitter as well, the temptation to match him against those who came before becomes irresistible. And since claims are being made that Clayton Kershaw’s no-hit victory over Colorado on June 18 is the most dominant pitching performance ever, it becomes our civic duty to summon up a memory of Nolan Ryan.
...The only mark against Ryan that day was that he issued four walks while Kershaw allowed none. This gives Kershaw the nod, his supporters say. Fair enough, except for this.
Ryan threw the ball harder than Kershaw—his fastball was routinely measured at more than 100 miles per hour—and he therefore didn’t have Kershaw’s ability to control where it went. Walks were such a part of Ryan’s repertoire that he didn’t pitch a complete game without one until he was 36 years old and was no longer throwing as hard.
But I’ve always thought that Ryan’s occasional inability to get the ball over the plate was one of his strengths. The idea that a pitch might get away from him was firmly implanted in hitters’ minds as they approached the plate.
...As Kershaw’s no-hitter in Dodger Stadium was winding down, a television camera peered into the Rockies’ dugout and Vin Scully noted the look of awe on the faces of their hitters. That struck me as about right and points to the essential difference when the subject is domination.
When the Tigers came to the plate against Ryan that day, their main emotion was not awe but fear.
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