This week we are going to take a look at 7 Nolan Ryan cards from my personal collection that I find interesting. They are all from the 80s and 90s, which obviously means we’ll be focusing on the later half of his career. Thanks to P-Town Tom from the Waiting Till Next Year blog for suggesting Ryan as the focus of this edition of the 7 Awesome Cards Series!
1992 Fleer Pro-Vision Insert
Pro-Vision is becoming one of my favorite insert sets from the 90s. They feature great art by Terry Smith including this sweet drawing of Ryan holding a smoking ball. I love the scowl on his face and the tick marks on the wall which were presumably tallying the number of strikeouts he was accumulating game after game. Beckett had a pretty cool article about the artist and I suggest you check it out!
2. 1985 Topps Record Breaker
Card number 7 of the 1985 Topps set celebrated Nolan Ryan becoming the all time career strikeout leader. He accomplished the feat on September 30th, 1984 passing Steve Carlton of the Phillies. He hit the record with his 3,874th strikeout and would actually go on to record almost another 2,000 Ks over the next 9 seasons. You can almost feel the power of his throw when looking at the combination of his face and arm as he is captured mid-pitch.
3. 1991 Pacific #92
In 1991, Pacific introduced a 110 card set completely focused on Nolan Ryan. The cards highlighted his entire career and as a kid provided my first opportunity to have him in a card with a uniform outside of the Astros or Rangers. Nolan was known as a gritty player, and it doesn’t get any grittier than card #92. Ryan is captured in a blood stained jersey with a trail of blood still running down his chin. I believe this was the result of taking a ball off the face from the bat of Bo Jackson. He threw Bo out and went on to stay in the game to record another 17 outs. Check out the play below!
4. 1990 Topps Nolan Ryan #1
Ryan hit the 5K strikeout mark during the 1989 season, and Topps took full advantage of the opportunity to crank out the Ryans in the flagship set. They started out with this card as #1 and followed it up with a “5,000 Ks” 4 card subset recounting his time on the Mets, Angels, Astros, and Rangers. As a kid, this was one of the standout cards in the set, and when I come across this card today it brings back fond memories of busting those packs.
5. 1991 Pacific #50
I really enjoy when cards serve as a uniform time capsule. That’s exactly what we have with card #50 in the 1991 Pacific set we discussed above. This card shows him fully extended after a pitch in a horizontal picture. It’s a great example of those colorful 80’s Astros uniforms and from hat to shoes Ryan was rocking the look.
6. 1990 Donruss #659
As we discussed above, Nolan Ryan hit the 5,000 strikeout milestone during the 1989 season, and Topps wasn’t the only manufacturer to make cards recognizing this feat. One of my other favorites is the “5,000 Ks” card from Donruss. It doesn’t have the action shot of some of these other favorites, but I really like a couple other aspects of the card. The special text on the front of the card is a perfect visual representation of ‘90s design, and I like how the back contains both full career stats and a small write up on the bottom.
7. 1994 Mother’s Cookies
This card just looks raw, and I like it. The rounded corners and borderless design remind me of the 1969 Topps Supers. It kind of looks like a mug shot if you ask me! Mother’s Cookies put out cards as a promo item for several years in the 80’s and 90s, and as we learned in Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict, they were one of the driving forces behind Tanner Jones’s early collecting love. I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of these oddball sets and the Mother’s sets seem to be some fun ones to track down.