This Day In Sports: The Ryan Express Travels Into Uncharted Territory


"You could call me Mr. 4,000, but I already have an awesome nickname."

July 11, 1985: Nolan Ryan had been bringing the heat for nearly two decades, but on this day he reached a whole new level by becoming the first-ever pitcher to reach 4,000 career strikeouts. The unlucky victim was one Danny Heep, a Mets outfielder/first baseman who missed a curveball in the dirt in the sixth inning to give Ryan his record-breaking K. Heep had two strikes on him when the crowd of 20,921 at the Astrodome rose to its feet and cheered, sensing the record. After the strikeout, the crowd remained on its feet, giving Ryan a two-minute standing ovation.

All in all, it was a good day for Ryan, who was named a National League All-Star before the game. He collected 11 strikeouts, including the record-breaker, to help the Astros to a 4-3, 12-inning victory. That was the 158th time in his career that Ryan struck out at least 10 batters in a game.

Ryan, who finished that game with 4,004 strikeouts, is one of only four pitchers to have recorded more than 4,000 Ks. Randy Johnson (4,875), Roger Clemens (4,672) and Steve Carlton (4,136) followed in Ryan's footsteps and hit the 4,000 mark. But Ryan is the only pitcher in history to reach 5,000. He would hit that milestone four years later, striking out Rickey Henderson of the A's on August 22. Ryan would finish his Hall of Fame career with a record 5,714.