His head hurt, his back hurt, his heel hurt and his middle finger hurt.
Then sickly 44-year-old Nolan Ryan hurt the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday night with the most dominating of his seven career no-hitters in a quarter-century big league career.Ryan's 3-0 victory for the Texas Rangers was accomplished with 96 mph fastballs, 86 mph changeups and 80 mph curves. He struck out 16 and walked only two in cutting down the major league's best-hitting team.
Not bad for an old man in baseball years who told pitching coach Tom House before the game: "My back hurts, my heel hurts and I've been pounding Advil all day. I don't feel good. I feel old today. Watch me."
House watched along with 33,439 fans as Ryan allowed the Blue Jays to hit only eight balls in fair territory.
Ryan said he had never had better stuff during any of his other no-hitters.
"I never had command of all three pitches like I did tonight," Ryan said. "It was my most overpowering no-hitter."
The only danger came in the fifth inning when Manny Lee hit a Texas Leaguer to short center that gold glover Gary Pettis caught off his shoetops.
"I was concerned and the only time I was worried, but I knew Gary had a good chance because he was playing shallow," Ryan said. "It was good to have a gold glover there on that play."
Catcher Mike Stanley thought the no-hitter was over.
"I just hung my head and had a few choice words," Stanley said. "I definitely thought it was a hit."
Lee said he didn't think his blooper would make it.
"It was off the end of the bat and Pettis got a good jump," he said.
Ryan struck out Roberto Alomar on a 93 mph fastball for the final out.
"I've known that kid since he was a 2-year-old toddler," Ryan said. "I knew him when he wanted to be a pitcher."
Ryan was so caught up in the excitement he actually had a big swig of champagne in the dressing room before he iced his arm and got on his exercise bike.
"This was the most rewarding no-hitter of them all because it came in front of my fans on Arlington (Half-Price) Appreciation Night," Ryan said. "My career is complete now. I got one for the fans in Arlington. You just hope you can get in a position to do something like this, but I would have been real disappointed if it got away."The non-Arlington citizens who paid full fare didn't mind.
It was the first no-hitter ever pitched in Arlington Stadium by a Rangers pitcher. Ryan threw his sixth no-hitter last year in Oakland with 14 strikeouts when he became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter at the age of 43.
Toronto manager Cito Gaston kept shaking his head in the Blue Jays dressing room.
"God gave him a great arm, and to see him pitch like that is just amazing," Gaston said. "When Ryan pitches, two things can happen. You can lose. Or you can be no-hit."
The Blue Jays were leading the majors in hitting with a .276 average before the game.
"It was like he was pitching against a Little League team," said Texas general manager Tom Grieve. "They didn't have a chance."
Ryan, baseball's all-time strikeout king, was listless in the bullpen during warmups.
"I didn't think I'd be out there very long," said Ryan, who was pitching on four days rest instead of the normal five days between starts. "But once the game got started, everything fell into place. Suddenly I got strong."
Batterymate Stanley said, "That Nolan's something. He complains all day, then goes out and pitches a no-hitter. All I know is I watched from the bench when he got his 300th victory, his 5,000th strikeout and his sixth no-hitter. Now, I'm part of history."
Ryan threw 122 pitches, 83 for strikes, and never allowed a runner past first base, walking Kelly Gruber and Joe Carter on full-count pitches.
"It was one of those days everything he did was right," Carter said. "He struck out three guys in the second on curves, but didn't throw me one curve for a strike. He threw the changeup. Awesome."
It was the 26th time in his career he had struck out 15 or more batters in a career. Ryan (3-2) pitched his 60th shutout, and his 305th victory tied Eddie Plank for 17th on the all-time list.
Toronto's Jimmy Key (4-1) was the victim. Ruben Sierra's two-run homer in the third inning was all the help Ryan needed.
"No-lan, No-lan," the crowd chanted as Ryan was hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates after yet another no-hitter, giving him three more than any other pitcher in history. Sandy Koufax had four. Ryan also has 12 one-hitters.
He saluted the crowd with his by now characteristic overhead wave.
May 15, '73, Angels, at Royals, 3-0
July 15, '73, Angels, at Tigers, 6-0
Sept. 28, '74, Angels, vs. Twins, 4-0
June 1, '75, Angels, vs. Orioles, 1-0
June 11, '90, Rangers, at A's, 5-0
May 1, '91, Rangers, vs. Jays, 3-0
Sept. 26, '81, Astros, vs. Dodgers, 5-0
Major League pitchers who have thrown three or more no-hitters since 1900:
Nolan Ryan, 1973 1974, 1975, 1981, 1990, 1991
Sandy Koufax, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
Bob Feller, 1940, 1946, 1951
Ryan's low-hit games