Rex's Ruthian moments -- on the diamond

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
11:15
AM ET
Rex Ryan's latest comments, comparing himself to Babe Ruth, are sure to stir a reaction from detractors that say he should learn to keep his mouth shut.

In case you missed it, Ryan, speaking at the NFL owners' meetings in New Orleans, reiterated his recent Super Bowl guarantee in a conversation with the New York Daily News. Ryan said he likes making bold predictions, adding, "... I guess I feel more like Babe Ruth. I'm going to walk softly, I'm going to carry that big stick and then I'm going to point and then I'm going to hit it over the fence."

Ryan was mixing his Ruth with some Teddy Roosevelt, but you get the drift. Truth be told, Ryan has some Ruth in his DNA -- and we're talking baseball. His older brother, Jim, a lawyer from St. Louis, once told me this Rex-being-Rex anecdote.

It happened at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., back in the early 1990s. During one of the football practices, Rex wandered over to a nearby baseball field, where he saw a pitcher - probably around 18 - throwing smoke. Ryan, an outstanding hitter as a kid, asked if he could take a swing against the hotshot flamethrower.

We'll let Jim pick it up from there.

"So this big guy in cowboy boots picks up a bat, no loosening up, not even a warmup swing and steps to the plate," said Jim, a former agent who represented a player in the Senior Bowl. "Rex asked the pitcher what his best pitch is and the kid says it's his fastball. So Rex tells the pitcher not to worry, to bring the heat.

"Rex hits the kid's first pitch about 400 feet. He drops the bat, says, 'Oh, yeah, you're good,' and walks away."

Here's another Ruthian ... er, Rexian moment: In the days leading up to last season's Jets-Browns game, Rex's twin brother, Rob Ryan, then the Browns' defensive coordinator, entertained writers with stories. His favorite:

They were on the same high school baseball team in Chicago, and the best pitcher in the city struck out Rex out in his first at-bat. In his next at-bat, the pitcher fired a couple of fastballs by him.

“He was only playing with one contact lense,” Rob said. “He goes, ‘Rob, give me your left contact.’ So, I give it to him. He plucks it in his eyes and goes up and smashes a home run. I think the thing is still going. I think they found it in Cuba somewhere. He’s circling the bases, comes in and has a big smile on his face. He goes, ‘You want that contact back?’ I’m like ‘Nah… you can keep it.’”

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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