This Date in Mets History: September 11 - Nolan Ryan's Debut, Olerud's Cycle

Traided. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Imagine another reality where that name conjures the image of an urban cowboy, the Texan in Broadway lights. Nolan Ryan, Tonto to Seaver's Lone Ranger, co-ace of the '86 World Champions (and other World Champions), mentor of a better-anchored Doc Gooden. Nolan Ryan, bringer of seven no-hitters to a Met club particularly blessed in that category. Nolan Ryan, ready with his investment group from the word "Madoff"... we can dream.

The 19-year-old Ryan made his Mets debut on September 11, 1966, brought into the sixth inning of a game against the Braves at Shea Stadium. He struck out his first batter. (He would strike out 5,713 more across 27 seasons -- but one at a time, as they say.) Felipe (father of Moises) Alou flied out for the second out. Then, Eddie Matthews took his third unavailing hack and was strikeout number two.

Ryan was granted another inning when the baseball gods requested he face Hank Aaron. The pitcher tapped the bag himself to take care of Aaron's ground ball; gave up a homer to Joe Torre; got a line drive right at-em, then closed the inning by tabulating Dennis Menke as strikeout number three.

Fifty-seven-hundred and ten to go.

Birthdays

  • Once, Larry Bearnarth received a mound visit from his manager, Casey Stengel, who said "Tra-la-la" just before walking off. Bearnarth got a triple play ball, then hurried to the dugout to discover Casey's meaning. "Triple play," Casey said. "It was for a triple play." Bearnarth (1941-1999), a native New Yorker, pitched out of the Met bullpen from '63-'66. His 4.13 ERA wasn't bad at all for those teams. On June 9, 1964, he pitched 10 innings relief -- a record that still stands -- in a 12-inning game against the Cubs, all of them scoreless.
  • Dave Roberts (1944-2009) finished his 12-year, journeyman career pitching ineffectively for the 1981 Mets; he was released in May. In 1976, he served Hank Aaron his final hit.
Game of Note

John Olerud hit for the cycle on September 11, 1997. The Expos were at Shea Stadium. The awesome guy in the hard hat doubled in the first, singled in the third, homered in the seventh, then came up with the bases loaded in the eighth. It was 1,410 at bats since his last triple. He tripled. The Mets won the game like a working person, nine to five.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection

I'll link to the New York Times's extraordinary feature, Portraits of Grief. These ran for weeks in the daily paper and were utterly absorbing. Stumble on a Met fan like John Sbarbaro, who travelled each year to spring training, played the kazoo and cheered so hard he got an annual picture in the St. Lucie paper; caption: "The Crazy Guys From Brooklyn."

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