Nolan Ryan attributes longevity to throwing - and genetics

Posted: March 31, 2011

The Nolan Ryan biography has so many amazing parts. The 324 wins, the 5,714 strikeouts, the seven no-hitters, and the 12 one-hitters. But one part of his career almost defies logic: his durability.

From 1971 to 1992 - when he was 45 years old - the pitcher dubbed "The Ryan Express" started at least 26 games every season with the exception of the strike-shortened 1981 campaign. And that was despite shoulder surgery after the 1975 season.

It was even more remarkable considering Ryan was not a knuckleballer or a soft tosser but instead threw 100 m.p.h. fastballs until the end of his career in 1993.

So what was his secret?

He didn't really have one, Ryan said. The Hall of Famer attributes his success to a dedication to throwing, throwing, and more throwing. And adding some running to the mix.

And don't forget this, he said. Good family traits go a long way.

"Your work ethic has a lot to do with staying away from a career-threatening injury," Ryan said. "But the biggest thing is genetics. There were a lot of pitchers who wanted to pitch as long as I did. But because of their body type or injury, it didn't allow them to play as long as I did."

Few pitchers in Ryan's day had detailed workout plans other than to keep their arms loose and their legs strong. Ryan made his debut for the New York Mets in 1966.

Ryan remembered how, if an injury did occur, the doctors could do little about it. "They didn't have sports medicine" that's available today, he said. "All of that has evolved in the last 30 years."

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