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1973 Game-Used Baseball From Nolan Ryan's Record-Breaking 383rd Strikeout Game
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $3,525
On September 27, 1973, at Anaheim Stadium, California Angels pitcher Nolan Ryan made baseball history by striking out his 383rd batter of the season, thereby breaking the incredible and once-thought-unbreakable single-season strikeout record set by Sandy Koufax in 1965. Offered here is a game-used baseball from Ryan's historic record-setting performance, signed by both Nolan Ryan and home-plate umpire John Flaherty. Ryan has inscribed the official American League (Cronin) ball in black ink (grading "7") on a side panel "To Jake/Best Wishes/Nolan Ryan," while Flaherty has inscribed the ball in green ink (grading "7") on the opposite side panel: "Good Luck/John Flaherty." An additional green-ink inscription (presumably written by Flaherty) appears on a separate side panel: "Anaheim Stadium/Sept 27, 1973/16 K's."
When Ryan made his final start of the year for the Angels on September 27, 1973, he trailed Koufax by fifteen strike outs for the single-season record. The fact that Ryan needed a Herculean effort that night to surpass Koufax was probably the reason why only 9,100 fans turned out for what was an otherwise meaningless game for the fourth-place Angels. Adding to the challenge was the fact that Ryan would be facing the best hitting team in the league that year: the Minnesota Twins, whose lineup boasted a collective .270 batting average, not to mention American League batting champion Rod Carew. Those that attended, however, were not disappointed. Ryan, who had already pitched two no-hitters that season, saved his best for last, as he began mowing down the Twins batters early and often. Ryan struck out the side in the first and continued his assault on the record by striking out two in the second, one in the third, three in the fourth, two in the fifth, and the three more in the seventh. He tied Koufax at 382 by striking out Steve Brye in the eighth, but it was apparent that Ryan was tiring. Luckily, the game went into extra innings tied 4-4, giving Ryan an extra opportunity to make history. After failing to record a strikeout in the tenth, Ryan returned to the mound for the eleventh in what was sure to be his final inning. Angels radio announcer Dick Enberg described the scene best as Ryan valiantly attempted to etch his name in the record books: "Ryan now is like the heavyweight fighter with a knockout punch that has gone so many rounds that he has his opponent staggering and staggering but doesn't have enough left to deliver that one blow that will knock him to the canvas and put him away. He's getting the two strikes on hitters but can't get the third." Ryan recorded two outs in the inning, in between a walk to Rod Carew, and then faced pinch hitter Rich Reese. Enberg foreshadowed the historic event: "You can feel through the crowd a vibration saying, Maybe this is the guy." Sure enough, Enberg was right, as Ryan fanned Reese on three straight pitches. Following the climatic event Enberg gushed, "Swung on and missed! Nolan Ryan is the Major League strikeout king of all time! He walks off the mound, his teammates come over to greet him one by one, the fans stand cheering. Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen one of the finest young men to ever wear a baseball uniform record one of the most incredible records in Major League history. Three hundred and eighty-three for Nolan Ryan! Fans are shaking hands with each other as if they're all part of this great night, as if to say, Yes, we saw it. We saw it all." Ryan's record has stood the test of time and although a few pitchers have come close, most notably Randy Johnson (372) in 2001, no one has yet been able to surpass the legendary "Express" for strikeouts in a season. The ball is moderately soiled, with a few tiny areas of light discoloration, and all of the manufacturer's labels remain legible. There is always a leap of faith with regard to game-used baseballs; however, given the vintage notations, and the fact that both Ryan and the home plate umpire that night have signed the ball, we feel that the leap required here is very small, and strongly believe that this ball is exactly what it is purported to be: a ball used during the course of the historic game in which Nolan Ryan set the Major League single-season strikeout record on September 27, 1973, at Anaheim Stadium. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,525
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