The Much Anticipated(?) Meeting Between Robin Ventura and Nolan Ryan

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How the Robin VenturaNolan Ryan scrap from 19 years ago gained such cult status is understandable when you consider the ages of the participants at the time (Ventura was 26; Ryan 46) and that everyone has seen it as a highlight reel staple for nearly two decades.

Ryan, for all the worship he’s engendered over the years, was an ornery cuss on the mound with a reputation for throwing at hitters for the slightest transgression. Ventura, as a young player, had presumably heard the stories and when Ryan drilled him he knew it was done on purpose. The previous inning, Rangers’ outfielder Juan Gonzalez had been hit by White Sox’ pitcher Alex Fernandez, so it was obviously Ryan pulling old-school retaliation of “you hit my young star, I’ll hit your young star.”

It would’ve been interesting if Frank Thomas or Bo Jackson had come up to the plate instead of Ventura. Would Ryan have thrown at one of them?

Ventura charged the mound, Ryan got him in a headlock and hit him on the head with a few punches; several skirmishes broke out; then everything calmed down. Then it started up again.

You can watch the clip below.

The two had never crossed paths since the incident and it grew into something more than what it was—a run of the mill baseball fight.

But it’s not something that should be remembered along the lines of John Roseboro being clobbered on the head by Juan Marichal’s swinging bat; nor is it on a level with “The Punch” when NBA player Kermit Washington nailed Rudy Tomjanovich and knocked him to the hardwood floor with such force that Tomjanovich hit his head and nearly died.

Roseboro and Marichal eventually made their peace and that was a big deal.

Washington and Tomjanovich also made their peace and that was a bigger deal.

In the context of legitimately dangerous fistfights in the heat of competition, the Ventura-Ryan fight was a diversion that’s gotten far more attention than it deserved and that’s continued to this day. Maybe now it can stop.


4 thoughts on “The Much Anticipated(?) Meeting Between Robin Ventura and Nolan Ryan

  1. The fight was awesome because a 46 year old beat on a 26 year old. But looking back, if Ventura had done the beating we would remember him as a punk for beating on an old man.

    But the fight doesn’t deserve to be remembered as an all time great unless it’s solely for the fact that the 46 year old man did the 5 knuckle shuffle on the 26 year olds head.

    1. If it were two guys in the street, then okay. But Ryan was known for his ridiculous physical conditioning and was, as I said, an ornery cuss.
      Age was only referenced by people who would get beaten badly if they got into a fight with someone 20 years younger.

  2. In defense of the fight, at least it’s an actual fight. Most “baseball fights” are a bunch of people standing around looking menacingly at each other. It’s usually fairly lame.

    In this case there were legitimate punches thrown and that can be amusing.

    Around here, it’s gained a lot of notoriety because there wasn’t much to cheer about in Texas in those days. We had just wrapped up 2 decades of irrelevance and Nolan Ryan provided most of the better memories for the franchise (the fight, two no-hitters, 300th win, 5000th strikeout, and that time he got hit in the face with a ball & kept pitching with blood all over his uniform).

    For better or worse, it was a big part of this team’s history, even if they’ve done things in recent years to eclipse it.

    As far as everyone anticipating the meeting, that’s just silly. There were all these not-so-hushed whispers about what might happen when they finally crossed paths again.

    If you got into a fight with a kid in grade-school, then you run into him on the street when you’re in your 20s, do you just deck him in the face immediately? No, because that would make you a psychopath.

    This is the same thing.

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