Twenty years ago today, Nolan Ryan had one of his most impressive and memorable outings.
On August 17, 2010, in the first game of a doubleheader, Nolan Ryan threw 10 shutout innings, allowing only three hits and walking none while fanning 15. The resulting Game Score of 101 was the highest by an AL pitcher was the highest by an AL pitcher since 1976, and we still haven’t seen anyone top it since (though Ryan himself tied it the next year in a no-hitter). Among other things, it’s the most innings he ever threw in a game in which the all-time walk leader didn’t issue any free passes. (Despite his brilliance, he got a no-decision, though Texas won 1-0 in 13 innings).
That’s what made it brilliant. It’s not why I find it memorable, though.
There’s a story with this game and it revolves around a fourth guy who got on base against Ryan that day. You see, aside from the trio of singles, Ryan hit a batter putting him on. In the top of the third, after retiring the first seven batters he faced, Ryan plunked little Craig Grebeck in the ribs with the first pitch. As a kid watching the game at home, I knew that was intentional – not a doubt on my mind.
You see, there’s a back-story here. Exactly one week earlier, in Ryan’s previous start (also against Chicago), the legendary hurler experienced perhaps the most humiliating inning of his life. In the second inning, with two runners on, the supposedly 5 foot 8 Grebeck hit his first career homer off of Ryan. Then Ozzie Guillen followed that up with a homer of his own. Yes, you read that right: Grebeck & Guillen hit back-to-back homers off the mighty Nolan Ryan. Their 4 RBIs was the difference, as Chicago bested Ryan and the Rangers, 5-1.
Fun fact: neither Grebeck nor Guillen hit any other homers all year.
So yeah, as a kid watching the August 17 game, I was sure that HBP was intentional. Cleary, Sox starting pitcher Greg Hibbard agreed. A couple innings later, he plunked Ranger third baseman Steve Buechele. Seemed appropriate – Grebeck played third for the Sox that day so this evened it out. Well, I suppose Buechele didn’t think it seemed too appropriate, because he charged the mound. Benches cleared – except for Ryan, who walked onto the field after order was restored. He had to conserve his strength to fan those 15 White Sox after all.
In a sign of how the game’s changed, Hibbard wasn’t tossed. In a sign of how the game’s the same, Buechele was tossed.
That was an interesting story and a great performance, all in one game – twenty years ago today.