ARLINGTON -- Nolan Ryan spent 27 years in the big leagues flirting with one no-hit bid after another. Ryan ended up with a record seven no-hitters, but there were countless other times where he went into the late innings of games without giving up a hit before somebody -- Mike Schmidt, Terry Francona, Nelson Liriano, Dave Bergman, to name just a few -- ruined it for him. Now, on Monday night while sitting in his front-row seat at the Ballpark in Arlington, Ryan was put through what so many others went through when he was pitching. He was just as excited as everybody as Rangers starter Rich Harden and three relievers took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
"I was hoping they would get it done for the pitching staff and for the excitement of the fans," Ryan said. The Rangers didn't get it done. Joe Mauer singled off closer Neftali Feliz with one out, and the Rangers had to settle for a combined one-hitter in a 4-0 victory over the Twins. "I thought it would happen," Ryan said. "But when I saw who was hitting in the ninth, I was worried about Mauer. He's a good fastball hitter ... well, he's a good hitter period." Ryan still was thrilled with what he saw, especially considering that Harden had just been activated off the disabled list before the game. Ryan pitched his sixth no-hitter on June 11, 1990, for the Rangers against Oakland in just his second start after a stint on the DL. "Rich had really good stuff," Ryan said. "They had some weak swings against him, and they took some pitches that put them in some holes. There were times when he got out of rhythm, but then he fell right back into it. That was good to see him make that adjustment, because he hasn't been able to do that." Harden lasted 6 2/3 innings. He threw 111 pitches and came out after a two-out walk to Michael Cuddyer in the seventh. The crowd booed when manager Ron Washington came out to get Harden, but Ryan totally agreed with the decision. "He threw 111 pitches," Ryan said. "He kept his stuff the whole time, but Ron didn't have a choice but to take him out. You have to protect the player and do what's best for the team. Ron did the right thing and Rich knew it." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was just in the same position as Washington. Eight days earlier, he took pitcher Kevin Slowey out of the game after seven innings with a no-hitter. Slowey had just missed his previous start because of a tender elbow. "He's protecting his pitcher, too," Gardenhire said. "Everyone wants to see a no-hitter, but unless you're accountable for a guy's arm, then you'll never know what we go through as manager." Ryan has been there before. He had a no-hitter for five innings on Opening Day in 1990 for the Rangers. But Spring Training had been cut short because of a work stoppage, and manager Bobby Valentine had to take him out after 91 pitches. The no-hitter finally came to an end against reliever Mike Jeffcoat. Now, on Monday night, Ryan got to experience as a club president what so many people experienced watching him for so many years.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.