You think Nolan Ryan was inspired by the 1973 Topps baseball card set?
But did anyone really expect him to top that effort in 1973?
And then go on to break Walter Johnson’s all-time strikeout record in 1983, on his way to more than 5700 career Ks?
Or toss seven no-hitters or win 324 games or keep pitching until he was 46 or do any of the things that made him The Ryan Express, Legend of the Mound?
I don’t know.
Maybe Nolan himself thought some of those things could happen.
And I’m sure the Angels hoped their young fireballer could keep up the intimidation for awhile.
But, surely, an all-time (modern) single-season record of 383 strikeouts and his first 20-win season might have seemed a bit much to ask, right?
Find 1973 Topps Walter Johnson on eBay (affiliate link)
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But, then again, maybe Ryan got a gander at cards numbered 476 and 478 in that 1973 Topps issue. Because, right there in the middle of a lineup of then-current dudes like Tom Griffin and Dal Maxvill and Juan Marichal, the old gum company dropped a run of eight cards featuring a bunch of all-time leaders.
Sure, you have to figure this was a prelude to 1974, when they’d honor Hank Aaron and his impending all-time home run crown. Hammer did make this 1973 subset, after all, by virtue of already holding the record for most career total bases.
But most of the guys in this run hadn’t been heard from in decades, relegating them to black-and-white photos and making these (then) brand new cards feel like relics right out of the pack.
Ty Cobb (twice), Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Cy Young — they all made the cut.
And, of course, Walter Johnson wrapped up the thing, taking two of the last three (pitchers) slots.
It was a Cy Young (wins) sandwich wrapped in a Big Train bun (shutouts and strikeouts).
But was Ryan really inspired by these cards, by the achievements of the men who came way, way before him?
Well, the timing sure works out … though …
Ryan had led the Majors in shutouts in 1972, too, with nine. So …
Maybe it was he who inspired Topps?
“We’re putting together this subset of all-time leaders, you know, since Hank Aaron is getting ready to take down some of those records. Think we should include some pitchers, too? There’s some amazing stuff happening out there on the mound!”
Or maybe it’s just all a coincidence.
Either way, collectors came out on top.
Wow! Wax of the Day
Wanna have a crack at finding your own pack-fresh copies of these Walter Johnson cards? Well, you could always pick up a fourth series wax box of 1973 Topps baseball, like the one in this eBay lot:
Sure, it comes at a steep price, but it’s BBCE-wrapped, and Ryan also appears in the fourth series — Mike Ryan, that is.
Check out the full listing here (affiliate link).Nothing to show!!