Few Texas sports heroes are more synonymous with their chosen sport than Nolan Ryan is with baseball. Now, the Lone Star State baseball icon will have a permanent home in Waco.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame has inherited the memorabilia collection from the Nolan Ryan Museum in Alvin, thanks to a donation from the Ryan Foundation. A new exhibit honoring the legendary former pitcher for the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers will be unveiled at the Hall of Fame on Monday.
Hall of Fame executive director Jared Mosley said Ryan is among the elite Texas sports legends who transcend the game.
“When I first started here, I remember posing the question to our board members and different staff, ‘If you were thinking of a Mount Rushmore of Texas sports, what faces would you put in consideration?’ ” Mosley said. “Nolan was one of those names that was unanimous. He definitely represents the very best of not just baseball, but all Texas sports.”
Mosley was first presented with the idea of bringing the Ryan Museum’s collection to Waco about a year ago. The Ryan family had been looking to move the museum to a more central location in the state, and Ryan’s youngest son Reese casually brought the topic up to Mosley at an event in Round Rock.
“Reese asked if the Hall of Fame might have any interest in taking on the collection,” Mosley said. “That was the shortest conversation ever. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. That’s kind of a no-brainer.”
Over the past year, the two sides worked out the logistics of moving the collection to Waco. The 2,500-square foot Nolan Ryan Museum opened in 1999, and included a wide assortment of memorabilia from Ryan’s historic 27-year major league career.
That collection has now been shipped to the Hall of Fame. A portion will be housed near the tribute room gallery in the museum that honors such icons as Doak Walker, Darrell Royal and George Foreman. It includes items from Ryan’s high school and professional career, including tickets, jerseys, and World Series and all-star rings.
The items not on display will be kept in storage for now, but Mosley said they’ll be rotated into the museum’s display honoring Ryan.
“The great thing about a collection that big is that you can really keep it fresh,” Mosley said. “We should be able to rotate new items in every six months or so.”
A native of Alvin, Ryan signed with the New York Mets out of high school. He reached the World Series with the “Amazin’ Mets” of 1969 before moving on to the California Angels, with whom he played in five all-star games and seven times led the league in strikeouts.
Ryan spent nine years with the Astros, hitting a three-run home run in his first game with Houston in 1980. He helped the Astros to a pair of playoff appearances in ‘80 and ‘86 before moving on to close his career with the Rangers following the ‘88 season.
Ryan recorded his 5,000th strikeout with the Rangers, and threw the final two no-hitters of his career during his tenure in Arlington, at age 43 and 44, respectively.
Ryan’s 5,714 strikeouts and seven career no-hitters remain major league records.
He was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1985 and into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1999. Ryan currently serves as an adviser to Astros owner Jim Crane.
Visitors to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame will be able to view the Ryan exhibit at no extra cost. General admission to the museum, which is open 9-5 Monday through Saturday, is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students in first through 12th grades.
Ryan and his wife Ruth will be honored at a private reception at the Hall of Fame Sunday.