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Rangers History Today: The Nolan Ryan Era Begins

On this day, the Texas Rangers signed an aging future Hall of Famer to a one-year contract, and boy did it pay off.

On this date in Texas Rangers history, the team signed pitcher Nolan Ryan to a one-year contract during baseball’s winter meetings.

On Dec. 7, 1988, the Rangers were looking for any kind of boost they could get, both in their starting rotation and at the gate. Ryan was a player the Rangers thought could do both. At the time, the soon-to-be 42-year-old was already a legend and a certain Hall of Famer. By signing the one-year deal with the Rangers, Ryan hoped he could go out the way he wanted after going 12-11 with the Astros in 1988.

Ryan did so much more than that.

In his first season in Arlington, Ryan went to the All-Star Game for the final time, going 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA and an American League-leading 301 strikeouts. Ryan finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting and 23rd in Most Valuable Player award voting.

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Ryan became a sensation, due to his age and his continued ability to rack up career milestones while in Arlington. If you were a Rangers fan of a certain age, you probably had a ‘Ryan Express’ poster on your wall, or a framed photo of Ryan fighting the Chicago White Sox’s Robin Ventura.

In his five seasons with Texas, he recorded his 5,000th career strikeout, his 300th career win and threw his sixth and seventh career no-hitters. Ryan finished 51-39 with a 3.43 ERA and 939 strikeouts in his time with the Rangers. When it came time for Ryan to go into the Hall of Fame, he became the first player to go into the Hall wearing a Rangers cap on his plaque, even though he spent significantly more time with the California Angels and the Houston Astros.

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