Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/4/11
For five seasons, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were teammates in New York. This was back in the early stages of what would go on to be Hall of Fame careers for both Mets starters. Seaver was the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year while Ryan made his big-league debut in 1966 but didn't stick with the big club until 1968. The following year, both starters were prominent contributors as the Mets shocked not just the rest of the league but the entire sports world by winning the 1969 World Series in truly improbable fashion, earning them the fitting nickname of the Miracle Mets. They were only teammates for two more seasons, their last year as fellow Mets being in 1971 as Ryan was traded to the Angels in Dec. 1971. But even though they were never on the same side again in their respective storied careers, he continues to call Ryan a friend and has much respect for all he's accomplished not just as a player but more recently for his integral role in helping the Rangers become a championship-caliber club in the American League. "It makes me ecstatic with happiness for Nolan," Seaver said before Tuesday's SMU Athletic Forum Luncheon in Dallas. "I'm not surprised at all. Once he turned the corner and his real inner core work ethic started, I'm not surprised a bit, not one iota. I think he was intimidated with a couple of things real early in New York, one of them being New York. Once the organization, the Angels, they gave him the ball that was where it all began." The three-time National League Cy Young Award Winner remembers being part of a hard-throwing staff with the Mets but there was one member of that staff who took the cake when it came to throwing smoke. "I threw hard. Jerry Koosman threw hard and Gary Gentry threw hard. We were all hard throwers and then there was Nolan," Seaver recalled. "When he Ryan learned there's more to it than throwing and it is an art form called pitching, it was lights out. Just his work ethic, it's transferred right to what he's doing now. He loves it. He's got the same work ethic now as when he landed with the Angels." However, that work ethic isn't the only thing he feels has come to define his former teammate, friend and fellow member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I don't think I've ever met a better guy than Nolan. He's real. He's got a far better sense of humor than I think he ever lets on," Seaver said. "It's just wonderful to see. It's one of those great success stories and it just happens to be in baseball." Knowing how his former teammate conducted his business as a player and seeing him carry that same successful approach forward into his time as the Ranger president, he isn't at all surprised to see the transformation he's helped facilitate, where the Rangers are now viewed as more than merely a bunch of mashers. No, they also have some quality pitching to go along with the potent bats they've always seemed to have in Arlington. "He's old school in a sense that it's pitching and defense. Pitching and defense keeps you in every game," Seaver said. "You can win every game by one run if you don't give any away if you pitch and defense well. That makes every at-bat important. You've got to have pitching that you trust to get in there and pitch late into the game." One of the more publicized changes in approach Ryan has had with the Ranger pitchers deals with his well-documented dislike of pitch counts, something his former teammate definitely understands. "I haven't talked to him about pitch counts but I can presume what he would be thinking. Pitch counts are crazy, right? They're absurd," Seaver said. "I had a pitch count. Under Gil Hodges, I had a pitch count. It was my pitch count. I determined where I was beginning to go downhill and it's about 135 pitches. It wasn't computer driven but it was an honest pitch count number for me as a general rule. Koosman was probably 145 pitches, the big left-handed German. Nolan was probably 155. I think he's brought that philosophy forward." He remembers the native of Alvin, Texas first coming to the Big Apple as a rookie in 1966 as a reserved and quiet pitcher. However, that all changed once he got to know his new teammates and got more comfortable in the show as well as in his new surroundings. In fact, it was those early days as a Met where one of Ryan's more underrated personality traits first impressed his mates. "He had a great sense of humor. I'm not being facetious. Nolan was very reserved but once you became his friend, you learned about the person," Seaver said. "He had a great sense of humor and he never showed that. And I don't blame him, a young kid from Texas to New York, it's the other end of the spectrum. Good friend, sincere, hard-working, these are all wonderful attributes that he has. I'm not surprised with the success he's had."
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