It was one of the more bizarre incidents of the 1990s. A 46-year-old Nolan Ryan, still tossing fastballs facing a then-youthful White Sox hitter who didn’t quite hold Ryan with the same awe as most fans did. It’s a moment that lives on for baseball fans with the legendary Nolan Ryan – Robin Ventura autographed photo.
When the Express nailed him with a pitch that night in Texas, Ventura took on the man who could have been his father. Ryan may have been almost ancient by baseball standards but he was still feisty, prone to grunting and swearing after each heave that missed the strike zone. He delivered three serious noogies to Ventura’s noggin and then landed a decent punch as Ventura tried to wrestle him to the ground. After that, it was a sea of players from both benches on the field and into the fray.
Ryan was known as a pitcher who loved to throw inside and old school enough that he wasn’t about to let some young player get away with encroaching on his turf. Ventura was trying to send a message that he didn’t appreciate what he perceived as some unnecessary headhunting.
The Ryan-Ventura photo has become one of the most famous baseball photographs ever made. Bill Simmons, “The Sports Guy” wrote about it in his ESPN.com blog.
Ryan has never had any qualms about signing the photo. Years later, of course, Ventura became the White Sox manager and eventually the two laughed about their encounter that summer evening in Arlington, TX.
Truth is, the Ryan-Ventura photo is awesome. And Ryan, despite his somewhat mythic stature, has signed enough to make them readily available through some of the major online outlets. Here’s a link to several that are on eBay now.