Bringing It All Back Home

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Grantland's Director's Cut series began with this gem from Tony Kornheiser: a 1980 Inside Sports cover story on Nolan Ryan:

It was in 1973. No, maybe 1974. Then again, it doesn't matter when, only that it happened. Once with Dick Allen and once with Reggie Jackson. Maximum wood. The only kind of hitters Nolan Ryan really likes facing, because they can beat him with one swing.

Both times Ryan was pitching in games that were already tubed; he was down two or three, late. Ryan, who always thought like a bullfighter anyway, figured it was time to go for the kill. The prospect of having Allen's tail and Reggie's ears in his pocket appealed to his ego. So, each time, Ryan called his catcher to the mound and told him to tell the hitter, "Nothing but heat." Which is something of a direct challenge in the same way that spitting in a man's face is something of an insult.

Allen looked out at Ryan and said, "Let's get it on." A few pitches later he flew out to right, and when he jogged past the mound he smiled at Ryan and said, "You got me."

Reggie said nothing at all. He flew out to the leftfielder. He says it was a line drive. Ryan says it was routine.

"We both consider it a draw," Ryan says.

In fact, Ryan considers the Allen duel a draw too "because I didn't strike him out."

Nothing less would have satisfied him — not even a called strike three — but a screw-yourself-into-the-ground-from-the-aftershock swinging strike three.