Nolan Ryan played more seasons in Major League Baseball than any other man in history, 27 to be exact, splitting time with the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. He holds the MLB career record for no-hitters with seven and also the strikeout record with an astonishing 5,714 punchouts. He had 324 career wins and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, receiving 98.79% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.
Nolan Ryan was a World Series champion, an eight-time All-Star, an 11-time strikeout leader, a two-time ERA leader, and has his number retired with three different organizations. And yet, somehow, the one thing that eluded him in 27 years was the highest honor a pitcher can receive: the Cy Young Award.
Nolan Ryan never figured into Cy Young voting while with the Mets
In five years in the Big Apple, Nolan Ryan never figured into the National Cy Young vote, although it was in New York where he won his only World Series title as part of the famed 1969 Miracle Mets. In his first few seasons in the majors, Ryan split time as a starter and reliever, posting a 29-38 record before being traded to the California Angels in December 1971.
He came closest with the Angels
In his first season with the California Angels in 1972, Nolan Ryan earned his first MLB All-Star selection and finished eighth in the American League Cy Young vote, finishing the season with a 19-16 record and a league-leading 329 strikeouts, also leading the league with nine shutouts.
He was even better in 1973, posting 21 wins and 383 strikeouts, earning a second consecutive trip to the All-Star Game. It was this year that Nolan Ryan came the closest he ever would to the Cy Young, finishing as the runner-up to Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles. The following year, he finished third, which he would also do in 1977.
Nolan Ryan had three top-10 finishes with the Astros
In November 1979, Nolan Ryan became the first player in MLB history to make a million bucks per year, signing a four-year/$4.5 million free-agent contract with the Houston Astros. In his second season with the team in 1981, he finished with an NL-leading 1.69 ERA, also throwing the fifth no-hitter of his career and recording his 3,000th career strikeout. But he was one of many that fell victim to Fernandomania, finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young vote behind LA Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela, Tom Seaver, and Steve Carlton. He finished ninth in 1983 and fifth in 1987.
He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting in his first year with the Rangers at age 42
Nolan Ryan played the final five years of his MLB career with the Texas Rangers, the team he would later lead as president and CEO. In his first year in Arlington in 1989, at the age of 42, he posted a 16-10 record, again leading the league in strikeouts with 301. He earned the final All-Star nod of his career and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young race, the last time he would factor into the vote.
The following year, he threw his sixth no-hitter and then broke his own record in 1991 with his seventh. Nolan Ryan finally retired in 1993 at the age of 46.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference