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"Unless you're leading the Dog, the view never changes." - sign just outside the Yankees spring training clubhouse, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida



by modernerabaseball.com

“All I’m asking for is three quick strikes and to get out of here without getting killed.”

Batter Jim Bouton’s instructions to umpire Nick Stello are just one of many fascinating stories told at the Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center in Alvin, Texas.

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Bouton’s quote actually began this way as he stepped to the plate one night in Syracuse, New York to face talented, but wild Mets prospect Nolan Ryan.

“If the pitch is anywhere close to the strike zone, do me a favor and call it a strike,” Bouton urged Stello.

In the mid-to-late 1960s, Bouton and other hitters had good reason to be terrified. A then lean Texan named Nolan Ryan could be wilder than a Lone Star State tornado in his early days and the soft-spoken pitcher knew it back then.

“When I started playing baseball I just wanted to make it four seasons to qualify for a pension,” Ryan is quoted as saying inside his Exhibit Center.

Ryan’s growth from a small town boy to the Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York is magnificently portrayed at the Exhibit Center in his native Alvin, Texas, about 30 miles southwest of Houston.

A variety of great memorabilia and momentos from Ryan’s 27-year career are on display, including unique stories from his stints in the minors and in the majors with the Mets, Astros, Angels and Rangers.

But there is also a tremendous amount of historical artifacts from the fast-throwing right-handers youth.

Ryan roots are still firm in Alvin where he has kept residence for the most part since he was a little boy.

In the fall of 1996 – just three years after retiring at the age of 46 - the $1.2 million Nolan Ryan Center was completed and donated to Alvin Community College with space leased within the building for the Exhibit Center, which opened in early 1999.

Here’s a quick peek of our “favorites” of the Exhibit Center just to give you a little taste of the unique items and features on display:

1. A yearbook picture noting Ryan’s thin frame – 6-foot-1, 155 pounds.

2. An index card from scout Red Murff, dated April 24, 1964.

“This skinny high school junior has the best arm I have ever seen in my life. A smiling friendly faced kid - wide shoulders, long arms and strong hands,” Murff writes of the 17-year-old Ryan of Alvin High School.

3. This quote from an anonymous fellow Texan:

“Ryan is more pop than a pickup truck with a gun rack.”

4. An audio tour of Ryan’s seven no-hitters, especially his last two because they were toward the end of his career and he was in his 40’s!

5. Hall-of-Fame records depicting each of Ryan’s 5,714 strikeout victims and there were many, many multiple victims including some of the game’s best!

6. Details on Ryan's intense workout regimen, which enabled him to pitch 27 years with few injuries as of the game's best and most feared flame-throwers.

If you do get a chance to visit the Houston area, the trip south to Alvin is worthwhile. If you have even more time, you might head down to Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico, then on your way back head west toward Alvin before driving up north into Houston.

As you enter the small town of Alvin, you can’t miss the “Hometown of Nolan Ryan” on the city’s welcome sign.

The Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Exhibit Center is closed on Sundays.

Admission to the Exhibit Center is $5 for adults, $2.50 for students and seniors, children under 6 are admitted free. Group rates are available. Children under 12 must be escorted by an adult. No backpacks or strollers are allowed.

For additional information, call (281) 388-1134 or visit http://www.nolanryanfoundation.org.

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Jan 07 2002, 03:36:48
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