Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baseball Museum 17: Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center

On July 21, 2009, before going to the Astros game at Minute Maid Park we drove south of Houston to visit the Nolan Ryan Exhibit Center in Alvin, Texas. It is a small museum located kind of the middle of nowhere, but it was a very worthwhile detour. For one it was a way to waste time before the Astros night game. Secondly, the museum really tells the whole story of Nolan Ryan’s baseball career going as far back as his high school years playing in Alvin, Texas.

The exhibits are sort of organized in a semi circle arc like that of a ball field. The infield type area has a little theater with ballpark style seats with numbers related to Nolan Ryan’s career, such as his strikeouts, wins, etc. The next arc is kind of where the dirt infield usually ends and has pillars with various Nolan Ryan collectible memorabilia type stuff. The outer arc is like that of the outfield wall and is where the bulk of the exhibit space about Nolan Ryan is.

The exhibits that contain various Nolan Ryan memorabilia are sort of organized by type of memorabilia. The things on display include figurines, baseball cards, souvenir bats, souvenir baseballs, coins, and collectible postage stamp envelopes and cancellations.

The exhibits about Nolan Ryan go in chronological order. It has a timeline of his baseball career staring with high school. Each year has dates of highlight events, such as striking out a certain amount of batters, throwing low hit games, and his no hit games. Above the timelines is memorabilia related to that part of his career. Every few years along the line there is a video to watch about that time period in Nolan Ryan’s career. Mik really enjoyed watching the videos to learn more about Nolan Ryan.

The whole exhibit about his career was pretty interesting as it not only had a lot of information about Nolan Ryan, but it had a lot of related memorabilia. The other player museums we have been to either were somewhat limited in memorabilia, such as the small Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth ones, or limited memorabilia related to the specific player because the museum was not just about the player, but the team he played for, such as the Yogi Berra one. Both of those were great and worth visiting, but this one is unique in its amazing completeness.

Sure the Babe Ruth one had a little about his pre Major League Baseball career, but it was not much, especially since there really was not that much on display there overall. The Yogi Berra one did at least talk about his pre Major League Baseball career, but it did not have much in terms of items related to that part of his baseball career. The Ty Cobb Museum pretty much only had stuff related to his MLB career and after it. The Nolan Ryan Musuem in contrast gives has much space on its timeline to his college years as the other years in his baseball career.

There are some pretty interesting items on display as part of the timeline exhibit, such as Nolan’s original contract with the Mets and the scouting prospect card about Nolan Ryan. The coolest thing in my opinion is that they have balls from each of his no-hitter games (7) displayed along with the information about the game that includes the box score. They also have the ball was from his first career home run hit.

The final room of the museum is sort of a statistics room. It has a display with Nolan Ryan’s statistics with the Alvin Jackets. There is also a display that lists all the players he struck out and how many times he struck out each player. It is quite an impressive list with him being the strikeout leader with 5,714 strikeouts (note Randy Johnson in second is still at least 800 strikeouts away from that stat). This room also had several scorebooks of games Nolan Ryan pitched. The one interactive thing at this museum is also in this area and it is an interesting little video through a catcher’s mask that lets you get the feel of catching a Nolan Ryan pitch.

The exit to the museum has Nolan Ryan’s retired jersey’s hanging. His number has been retired at three of the four teams he has played for, so here is his #30 Angels jersey, #34 Astros jersey, and #34 Rangers jersey. There is also an exhibit about the Hall of Fame Class of 1999, which Nolan Ryan was part of being voted in to in his first year of eligibility. Lastly there is a display about pitchers that have gotten 300 wins. It is a little out of date, as Randy Johnson is not displayed, but he only made it to 300 this season. I also do not think Tom Glavine is displayed even though he did it back in 2007.

The Nolan Ryan Museum is my favorite baseball player museum we have visited. There is a surprising amount of items on display and it is all organized pretty good. Mik gives two thumbs up to the videos that tell about his life and his career throughout the museum. It was totally out of the way to visit before going to the Astros game since we were staying at a campground north of Houston, but it turned out to be a very worthwhile detour beyond just a way to waste time before the night game.

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