STEVE SERBY’S EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH RANGERS OWNER … NOLAN RYAN

On the eve of the ALCS, The Post’s Steve Serby chatted with the

Rangers’ part-owner who owns major league records with seven

no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts, and won 324 games and a World

Series with the 1969 Mets.

Q: Do you have to tell your guys that the

Yankees put their pants on the same

way?

A: No, I really think our guys have developed a level of

confidence from the fact when (the

Yankees) came (to Texas) in

September, we swept ’em. (That) probably did us a lot of good. We

know we can play with ’em. The pitchers know if they make good

pitches and don’t get in trouble, they believe they can pitch to

’em.

Q: You think you’ve got a shot?

A: I tell you what, I really think we line up pretty well

against ’em.

Q: What do you like best about your team?

A: The fact that they’re resilient, they never think they’re

beat, and they keep battling back. And when you think they’re done,

they get back up and come out the next day and play like nothing

happened.

Q: Is that a reflection of their manager (Ron Washington)?

A: It’s a reflection of Ron in certain ways. I think he’s very

positive; he understands baseball, and so he doesn’t get too high

or too low. Coming out of spring training, they were determined

they had something to prove. They’re very committed to going

further in the postseason than they’ve ever been before.

They have every intention of getting to the World Series. That’s

the mindset they have.

Q: How would you describe your mound temperament?

A: Aggressive.

Q: Reggie Jackson once said he feared you more than any

pitcher.

A: It probably had something to do with my control and the style

of pitcher I was. I threw hard and I was wild.

Q: How would you sum up your days in New York with the Mets?

A: I never pitched on a regular basis to the point where I ever

got enough innings where I made a lot of headway with my delivery

and my control. I was probably rushed to the big leagues and it was

probably a reflection on the God-given ability I had. It probably

would have served me better if I spent a couple of more years in

the minor leagues accumulating innings. In those days, we didn’t

have a pitching coach. The first pitching coach I ever had was in

the big leagues.

Q: Did you not enjoy New York?

A: It’s hard for me to say I enjoyed New York when I struggled

so much, and obviously it affects your attitude about things.

If I’d played there later in my career, my attitude might have

been different. I was frustrated and was so inconsistent. Any time

you’re like that, it’s extremely frustrating, so I stayed

frustrated a lot.

Q: You asked for a trade?

A: I mentioned to (thenGM) Bob Scheffing if they had an

opportunity to trade me, it might be in their best interests and

mine. I just felt like with the Mets trying to repeat what they’d

done in ’69, they didn’t have the luxury of letting me work my

problems out in the big leagues.

Q: The ’69 Mets?

A: It was a magical year. In the second half of the year, we got

a lot of momentum going and the Cubs were struggling. As we got

into the pennant drive, it was a lot like the (Rangers) club we

have now. We started believing in ourselves.

Q: When did that belief kick in with the Mets?

A: I think it was a growing process. It probably truly started

toward the end of August.

Q: Your Rangers team has that same belief?

A: I see it in ’em in the way they respond after adversity and

they believe they’re better than they played that particular night,

and they don’t let it pull ’em down.

They put it aside and focus on the game at hand. That’s what you

saw in Game 5 in Tampa.

Q: The young Tom Seaver?

A: Exceptionally good fastball and slider . . . very good

control . . .

had a real feel for pitching.

Q: Gil Hodges?

A: No-nonsense-type manager.

Expected you to give your best effort every day, and he expected

you to respect the game.

Q: Winning the World Series.

A: It was just a magical moment.

A dream come true.

Q: Why did you guys believe you could upset the Orioles?

A: Just because we had done what we did with the Cubs – we were

behind ’em and we overtook ’em. We looked at the Orioles a lot like

we looked at the Cubs. We just felt like they didn’t respect us as

a ballclub. I remember Frank Robinson going on Johnny Carson and

mentioning they didn’t even know any of the guys on (our) team.

Q: How do you think the

Yankees view your team?

A: Obviously we have some veterans on our club that are

wellrespected in (Vlad) Guerrero and Michael Young and Cliff Lee. I

think the

Yankees are quite familiar with

Cliff Lee and what his capabilities are. I think they obviously

know we have some talented kids. With “SportsCenter” and all the

electronic media today, I don’t think the Texas Rangers are really

as unknown as the New York Mets were to the American League.

Q: Your first strikeout?

A: If it would have been Henry Aaron or Eddie Mathews or Joe

Torre, I’d have a much more vivid memory of it than Pat Jarvis (a

pitcher).

Q: Your first no-hitter?

A: That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was not a no-hit

pitcher growing up.

Q: You threw seven no-hitters.

A: It’s just one of those special days where everything comes

together and allows you to be in that position.

Q: Your seventh no-hitter (at age 44)?

A: I really thought that part of my career was behind me.

Q: Your 300th victory?

A: It was the second time went for it. It was a relief because I

didn’t want our fans have to continue following around hoping I’d

do it and wanting to be there.

Q: Your 5,000th strikeout?

A: My ability to strike hitters out was God-gifted ability.

Also the fact that I didn’t have a career-crippling injury . I

was very fortunate and blessed to remain a strikeout pitcher my

entire career. A lot of it was a gift, a lot of it was having the

determination and desire to pitch that long to make the most of the

ability you were given.

Q: You considered retirement in 1971?

A: I was so frustrated with my inability to throw strikes and be

consistent. I felt like my opportunity to be a starting pitcher in

the big leagues was slipping away me.

Q: What changed your mind?

A: My wife (Ruth). She told me that I need to stay with it and

give myself more time and that I was passing up a unique

opportunity.

She just convinced me I shouldn’t give up on myself. Then I got

traded and the Angels gave me an opportunity to pitch every four

days.

Q: One pitcher today you would like to have battled?

A: (Roy) Halladay with the Phillies is definitely one of the

premier pitchers in baseball right now. I think Cliff Lee obviously

would be a very big challenge because of his ability to pitch so

late into games and also the fact he gives up so few runs. CC

(Sabathia) is a very dominating pitcher. You know you’re gonna have

to be on your game to beat him.

Q: One hitter you would love to have challenged?

A: A couple of years ago, I’da said Manny Ramirez. The hitters

that gave me the most trouble were left-handed contact hitters that

didn’t pull the ball and hit it where it was pitched . . . George

Brett . . . Rod Carew . . . Pete Rose . . . Tony Gwynn . . . those

kind of hitters.

Q: You oppose pitch counts?

A: What we need to do as an organization is try to build your

pitchers up and have them pitch as much off the mound as you can,

have ’em in the best physical shape you can have ’em, and be

observant where they start laboring and fatigue sets in and they

lose effectiveness.

I think you’re losing a lot of innings and overloading your

bullpen.

Q: You once threw 235 pitches in an extra-inning game. How did

that affect you in your next start?

A: I pitched four days later and won.

Q: So you believe pitchers today are coddled?

A: They’re a product of baseball. They’re on a pitch limit from

the time they start in Little League and they stay on one all the

way through in their career, so you don’t have any idea what their

potential is.

Q: No pickle brine for your pitchers?

A: No, the Met trainer started that, I had a blister

problem.

Q: Bobby Valentine?

A: He was a teammate of mine with the Angels until that injury

to his leg cut his career short and then he was my manager for four

years with the Rangers. He was as confident as anybody I played

with and for.

Q; What do you remember about his career-ending injury?

A: I saw his leg snap when he went up on the fence to try to

catch Dick Green’s ball. When we went out there and they put him on

the stretcher and were carrying him off, it seemed his foot was

flopping back and forth. I remember how grotesque it was. He was in

shock.

Q: Your first glove?

A: It was a very big event. I was the last of six kids, I got

many hand-me-downs instead. My dad took me to the hardware store

and let me pick out my first glove.

Q: Alvin, Texas?

A: It was a small town. We didn’t know we didn’t have a lot of

things.

You felt no pressure as a kid.

Q: Is it fun or stressful being an owner?

A: I view it pretty much with the same set of eyes I had when I

was just president of the club and worry about the same things and

look at the overall operation the same. I’ve enjoyed it, but we’re

reaping the benefits of a lot of hard work over a long period of

time with the development of our farm system. . . . A lot of that

goes back under Tom Hicks’ watch.

—-

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