06/01/12 10:45 PM ET
Ryan honored by Halos in return to Anaheim
Rangers boss back in Angel Stadium for first time since '93
By Joe McIntyre / MLB.com
Before the start of Friday night's series opener against visiting Texas, which entered with a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League West, the Angels invited Rangers president Nolan Ryan to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.
Ryan, who spent eight of his 27 big league seasons with the Angels, was being honored as a member of the team's Hall of Fame and received a ring during a pregame ceremony. Along with a standing ovation from the Anaheim crowd, Angels players stood at the top step of the dugout to pay their respects to the former Halos pitcher.
"When I come back in here I always have fond memories of my days and the part of my career that was here and the relationships I had," Ryan said. "It's always special to come back, and the fans have always treated me well."
Ryan pitched for the then-California Angels from 1972-79, collecting 138 of his career 324 wins. He led the AL in strikeouts every year except 1975 during that span.
He threw four of his seven no-hitters with the Angels, and Friday marked the 37-year anniversary of his fourth -- a 1-0 win over the Balitmore Orioles on June 1, 1975.
But it has been 33 years since he last pitched for the Angels, and the rivalry between the team he runs and the team whose stadium he was honored in has grown a lot since then, especially over the last few years.
Either the Rangers or Angels have won seven out of the last eight AL West titles, and though Ryan says the rivalry isn't quite at the level of the Yankees and Red Sox, it's on its way.
"With [the Angels] making the commitment they did this winter to improving their ballclub, everybody felt that it was going to be a battle between our two organizations for the division," Ryan said. "So I think it's good for baseball, and it's good that people perceive it as a rivalry."
Ryan was supposed to throw out the first pitch at a Rangers-Angels game in Anaheim last July but was hospitalized with chest pain and hasn't returned to Angel Stadium since he last pitched in the ballpark back in 1993 with the Rangers.
He tossed seven shutout innings in the game but got a no-decision. It ended up being the final time he would record an out, however, as he suffered a torn ulnar lateral ligament in his next and final start against the Mariners five days later.
But what does he remember about his final game in Anaheim?
"That I had pretty good stuff and didn't win," Ryan said, laughing. "Obviously I knew it was the last time I was going to pitch here, so it was a little sentimental."
Though an entire generation of Angels fans haven't been alive for a single Nolan Ryan-pitched game, fans still showed the Hall of Famer the respect and warm reception he deserved for his years with the club.
"I think the president of our opponent was a pretty good pitcher in his day," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "I think he's earned that right. He was as important in what he did in his early years for this Angels organization as anything you want to talk about."
Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.