Friday, May 23, 2008

He's an Old Man!

I was watching a little TV the other day and ESPN was airing some interview with Nolan Ryan, the former Major League Baseball pitcher and Hall of Famer. I believe, if I recall correctly, it was shortly after the Red Sox no hit the Kansas City Royals about a year or so ago. They were interviewing Ryan because Ryan still leads the all time No Hitter list with 7 no-no's in his career.

I came upon the interview about half way through it, so I was not exactly sure to whom they were speaking immediately. When it finally dawned on that it was Nolan Ryan, I literally exclaimed, "Good lord! He's an old man!"

I guess that interview stuck in my brain because I always liked Ryan, probably because his last name was my first name. I didn't know any other Ryans until I was well into high school. I suppose that is just one of those funny things that appeal to impressionable young kids if a star shares his name or his birthday or something of the like.
I am not exactly sure why that interview astounded me so much, given that he pitched well into his 40's and was probably almost 50 when he finally retired. I just remember watching Nolan Ryan pitch when I was younger and I believe I recall actually watching his last No Hitter on TV. Granted, that was when I was largely still in grade school and had a nice collection of his baseball cards back in the day, but it was just shocking to see one of my childhood baseball stars literally look like a little old man.

Nolan Ryan was such a formidable presence on the mound that I guess a youthful part of my subconscious assumed he'd always be like that. I know that sounds silly, but seeing a little old, hunched-over, bald headed man of what had once been one of the most dominating pitchers in the Big Leagues just shocked me.

That got me to thinking about sports and aging. Most of the major league ball players of my youth are now retired. I think Mike Schimdt was the first player I remember having watched on TV who was elected into the hall of fame. There have been many since who have come and gone, but for some reason Nolan Ryan sticks out in my mind as someone who should be forever young.

For all things there is a season, I suppose.

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