There’s nothing going on today, so let’s celebrate one of baseball’s greatest anniversaries: Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura Beat Down Day!
It was on this day in 1993, in Arlington, Texas, that Nolan Ryan plunked Robin Ventura with a heater. Why? Hard to say. Ventura singled off of Ryan earlier in the game, but there wasn’t a ton of bad blood here or anything. And Ryan was not known as a headhunter. He only led the league in hit batsmen once in his 27-season career. Indeed, Ventura was the only batter he plunked that entire season. UPDATE: MLB.com’s Cut4 digs a bit into the “why” of it all today.
As for the plunking: Ventura collected himself for a moment. Thought about it and then made the worst mistake of his life: he charged the mound in an effort to mix things up with baseball’s most legendary fireballer. He, of course, got pummeled:
It was an instant sensation, going viral before anyone talked about video going viral. Every sportscast, local and national, and a bunch of other TV shows that otherwise wouldn’t feature baseball at all ran that clip. Today it’s the go-to reference for anyone talking about baseball and beatdowns.
Not that there isn’t some dispute as to how big a beatdown it was. A few years back a White Sox fan — obviously still salty over it all — put together a clip trying to rehabilitate Ventura’s fighting reputation, showing the moments AFTER Ryan’s haymakers to Ventura’s head in which Ventura gave back a little to the old Ryan Express:
I’ll give him this much: Ventura didn’t crumble and, yes, he gave back some to Ryan. Thing is, though, that Ryan was about 147 years old at the time and Ventura was a strapping young lad. And, as is the case in almost all walks of life, style counts. And there’s way more style involved in stopping a charging bull and putting it in a headlock than there is in wrestling an old man to the ground. Maybe it was more Leonard-Hagler in all of this than it was Hagler-Hearns, but the judges would’ve given this one to Ryan all the same.
Wanna know more? Last year Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com put together a great post setting forth 23 facts about the fight that you may or may not have known. For example: Ryan wasn’t even ejected. Ventura was, though, and then Ryan picked off the runner who took his place at first base.
Ryan would win that game. He’d only have six more starts after that, however, before retiring.