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Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher—A Review

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

For me, summer is a time for reading. One of the ways I define a vacation is the time when I can start and complete an entire book without major life interruptions.

This summer, I decided to start off my reading list with a book that I have been saving since the AngelsWin.com Spring Training Fanfest: Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher by Rob Goldman. I bought a copy of the book and got it autographed by Rob. I’m glad I did!

Growing up, I was lucky enough to see Nolan Ryan pitch. I was just a kid, but I knew he was special. Like every boy in Orange County, I wanted to see him pitch because he threw triple digits—the fastest man alive! My very memory at Angels Stadium was with my grandparents to see him pitch. And I can still recall my older cousin Ken taking me to the ballpark on games when he started. I’d always ask him if we were going to see a no-hitter. With Ryan, you never knew.

What I didn’t know, though, was the back story on Nolan Ryan. How he came to be the pinnacle of pitching. How he harnessed his wildness and how much his faith and his family meant to him. I knew his family, because I lived in the same town as him, but I only knew the “factual” Nolan Ryan, not the inner man.

After reading Rob Goldman’s book, all that has changed. Throughout the book, Rob weaves stories from Ryan’s past to show how Ryan went from thrower to pitcher to baseball executive. It all makes so much more sense. It goes through Ryan’s early struggles to his later successes and paints a portrait of a baseball player and family in a way fans rarely get to see—things like how a bet on a foot race to determine the fastest of the slow landed Ryan on the Disabled List, to how important a catcher was in helping Ryan figure out his mechanics and stayed in the rotation. 

This book is well researched. Rob weaves stories, quotes, anecdotes and comments from contemporary players, coaches and managers. This isn’t only about Ryan’s Angels career—it spans his entire time in baseball. Every baseball fan will find something enjoyable in the book—the book is filled with voices from around the game and throughout his years in baseball.

While reading this book, I was torn between reading it quickly to get through the entire history and reading it slowly to savor all the insights. About a quarter of the way through the book, I decided on a compromise: I would read it quickly now for a first time, and will reread it in the offseason much more slowly so I can focus on all the tidbits within it.

When done right, history is more than just facts and figures. It’s more than just names and dates. It explains the why while informing you of the who, the what, and the where. Good history books answer the question "what's his story."

In Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher, Rob Goldman does a masterful job of telling Nolan Ryan’s amazing story. He does so by letting the story and the voices of the game share what happened without bogging down in the recitation. He answers the questions for fans and presents both the public and private side to a legend.

This is the first book that I’ve read on Ryan that paints a full and complete picture of the pitcher I once idolized. In reading the book, I was transported back to a much more different time in Orange County and a different place in Angels and baseball history. The things I thought I knew as a kid (such as hating Buzzie Bavasi for not resigning Ryan and his terrible quote to reliving his 7th no-hitter) are all given a new context. 

Every baseball fan should buy and read a copy of this book. If you haven’t yet bought a copy, you can do so by ordering it here. And, as a special treat, at the Fourth of July game, Angels fans can meet Rob Goldman in Angels stadium and get him to autograph the book (he will have copies of the book available for sale at the stadium). 

And, if you have not read it, as an Angels fan, you should be sure to check out Rob Goldman’s other books Once They Were Angels and Tim Salmon Always an Angel: Playing the Game with Fire and Faith by clicking on the links in their titles. 

Your summer reading awaits!

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