December 10, 1971: The Angels trade for 24-year old Nolan Ryan
Some things never change. Fifty years later and the New York Mets are still making trades that come back and haunt them. In this case, they sent over arguably the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball for Jim Fregosi. Now, while Ryan won a ring in New York, nobody was prepared for what he would do in the remainder of the 70’s.
Here’s what Mets Manager, Gil Hodges told the New York Times following the trade.
"“You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan’s,” Hodges said today. “He could put things together overnight, but he hasn’t done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now, and Fregosi is such a guy.”"
Yes, Nolan Ryan did that thing where he, “put it together overnight.” In Nolan Ryan’s first year with the Halo’s he would go 19-16 with 329 strikeouts. He would do all that while rocking a sub 3 ERA over 39 starts. Nine more wins than he ever saw in a season than when he was in the Big Apple.
Nolan, as most know leads the MLB with seven no-hitters all-time. He would throw four of those seven for the Angels and then throw his fifth against the Angels. In 1973, Nolan would go on to toss two no-hitters while winning 21 games and it was arguably his best season as he struck out 383 batters that year and had a 2.87 ERA.
While never winning a Cy Young, Ryan did finish top 3 in the race in 1973, 1974, and 1977. He would be voted into 5 All-Star games during his time in California and would go on to strike out 2416 batters between 1972 and 1979. Ryan would take 14 years to strike out another 2805. He won at least 16 games in eight seasons with the Angels and would only hit that number two more times the rest of his career.
While the Angels never brought home any championships in his time with the Angels, he was a bright spot in the team’s history. He had four no-hitters, 2416 strikeouts, 138 wins and a 3.07 ERA in eight seasons. Unprecedented and immaculate is what Ryan was as an Angel and while it wasn’t known at the time, the date he was traded to Anaheim was one of the most important in Angels history.