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Ryan reminisces before Game 2 of Series

Ryan reminisces before Game 2 of Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- If Nolan Ryan ruled baseball as an emperor, he would return the game to its original form and eliminate the designated hitter, making the two leagues uniform.

In the real world, the president of the American League champion Rangers understands the power of the MLB Players Association and the economic reasons that would generate resistance to the idea.

"I don't like the fact that we have to deal with pitchers hitting when you go to National League parks and them having to have a DH when they come in the American League park," Ryan said before Thursday's Game 2 of the World Series, won by the Giants, 9-0. "I'd like to see it standardized.

"You manage the game differently when you have a starting pitcher that hits. It's not fair for a National League team to come into an American League park and we have a person that we've gone out and gotten for strictly that position as a DH, and they don't have that because they play a different game.

"I'm not in agreement with that. It's a big challenge with the Players Association, because you would be taking a high-paid player off a team if you did away with the DH. So if you ask me what my preference would be, it would be to eliminate the DH. That's just me personally, but I've always felt that way."

Ryan can't be accused of being motivated by personal sentiment. During his Hall of Fame career, intersected by the advent of the DH in 1973, he didn't win many games with his bat. He was a .110 hitter with two homers -- separated by eight seasons -- in 852 at-bats.

His Rangers -- with power, speed and quality defense -- are the kind of team he only occasionally had supporting him during his illustrious 27-year career.

He reached the World Series at age 22 with the Miracle Mets in 1969 as a relief pitcher trying to find his command, but was denied in three postseason trips with the Astros, in 1980, '81 and '86. He did improve his hitting in postseason play, however, raising his average to .188.

"My goal was to be a starter on a World Series championship team, and that never happened," Ryan said. "I got close several times, but it never happened. And so the longer my career went on, the more I realized how unique it is to get into the World Series and how hard it is to get there.

"I'm much more appreciative today than I was as a 22-year-old. But it was frustrating as a player to get close. You know, you might get within an out or two away, and something comes unraveled on you.

"That's why in Tampa, I never felt like -- and in New York, too -- that we had won it until we got the last out -- because I've been on teams that were one out away from accomplishing something and weren't able to get it done."

Ryan watched his Rangers respond to serious challenges against both AL East powers, claiming a decisive Game 5 in the AL Division Series in St. Petersburg against the Rays and then coming home to claim Game 6 of the AL Championship Series from the Yankees, touching off the wildest baseball-related celebration in the history of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

"You know," Ryan said, grinning, "it was strange last night. I was watching Jay Leno, and he's talking about the World Series and talking about the Texas Rangers, and I'm thinking, 'Gosh, that sounds strange.'

"I think that it puts us on the map with a lot of people within the country and within baseball, that we've made it to this level. I think we were more of a north Texas-type franchise in the past, because of the lack of the success that we've had. I think it definitely has a very positive impact on your organization and just on recognition.

"What I've seen is how much Texas memorabilia I see around the country now. You walk through the airport in New York, and you see people wearing it here in San Francisco, places like that. Our fans didn't even wear it to the ballpark when I came [to run the Rangers] in 2008. I see it all over the Metroplex now, so it's definitely had an impact."

Ryan has developed a strong attachment to this Rangers team, which features a leading AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate in center fielder Josh Hamilton, the AL batting champion.

Hamilton's recovery from drug and alcohol abuse has been one of the profound stories of recent seasons, and Ryan stands by watching the player evolve with amazement in his eyes and voice.

"I don't think that I can truly appreciate what he's overcome and the way he's handled it," Ryan said, having never personally experienced anything like it. "To me, it's a phenomenal story. He admits he's an addict, and the issues that those people deal with on a daily basis with their lives and the discipline they have to have is phenomenal -- not only in his personal life to put that behind him and stay away from it, but to have the discipline to do on the baseball field what he had to do.

"The first month of the season, he struggled, chasing a lot of bad pitches. He made that change [eliminating a foot movement] that allowed him to have the year that he's had this year. So it's been fun in the three years I've been here to watch him grow as a player."

Having lost three years to his addictions and endured a string of injuries largely related to his all-out style, Hamilton has played roughly three full Major League seasons -- 468 regular-season games.

"He probably isn't given enough credit," Ryan said. "He doesn't have that many big league at-bats [1,776]. He didn't have that many professional at-bats when he played that first year [2007] with Cincinnati. So to come up on this level and face big league pitching from both sides, it's phenomenal what he's been able to accomplish.

"Now teams don't want to pitch to him at all. The scouts are telling everybody, 'Don't let Josh Hamilton beat you, and don't pitch to Josh Hamilton.'"

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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