Nolan Ryan Was Earning $200,000 After Two 20 Win Seasons, Four No-Hitters

Nolan Ryan didn’t earn $1 million in a season until his 14th season when signed by the Houston Astros as a free agent.
Nolan Ryan is a very wealthy man today, but not nearly as wealthy as he could have been, if born about 20 years later. It is hard to comprehend him playing 13 seasons and earning only $200,000 a year during the 13th season.
It is safe to say that he would be earning $20 million a year if he was pitching today. It isn’t that $200,000 he was being paid by the California Angels isn’t a lot of money, but in comparison to what today’s pitchers are being paid it is nothing.
The Houston Astros signed Ryan to a four-year contract with a fifth year option, at $1,125,000 a year. The option year paid him $1 million for a total of $5.5 million at the end of the contract.
 Ryan Earned $1.04 Million In Previous 9 Years
Ryan had earned $1.04 million in the previous nine years, then he earns $1,125,000 a year for the 1980 season. So he made more in one year, than he had earned in the previous nine years.
He never earned more than $1.8 million in a season until 1991, when the Texas Rangers signed him to a $3.3 million contract for the 1991 season. Ryan earned $4.2 million in 1992 and $3.7 million in 1993 to finish his career.
Earned $14.4 Million In Last Five Years
The Texas Rangers had paid him $14.4 million in the last five years of his career, while he earned only $11.3 million in the other 22 years of his career.
Today a rookie that makes the team out of spring training can earn $480,000, if he stays with the major league team for the entire season, under the new labor contract for major league players.
Clemens Earned $150.6 Million 
Roger Clemens would pitch for less than a million a season for only three seasons. He earned $150.6 million in his 24 year career. He earned $29.6 million in the last two years of his career, which was $3.9 million more than Nolan Ryan earned in his entire 27 year career.
Clemens only compiled a 13-12 record for the Houston Astros and New York Yankees in those last two years. He didn’t even pitch for the Yankees in 2007 until the 60th game of the season and pitched from June 9 to September 16 before ending his season. He earned $17.4 million for only 99 innings of pitching  and a 6-6 record and a 4.18 ERA.
The advantage for Clemens was that salaries skyrocketed while he played, while Ryan played for $200,000 or less for 13 years. Clemens was 25 when he earned his first $1 million payday, while Ryan was 33 when he first earned $1 million.
Clemens Outearned Ryan By $125 Million
Ryan and Clemens combined to play 51 major league seasons and won 681 major league games, but Clemens pitched in the right era to earn $125 million more than Ryan.
Statistical Notes: Ryan never gave up more hits than innings pitched in any season, in which he pitched more than three innings….Ryan was traded to the California Angels along with Leroy Stanton, Frank Estrada and Don Rose and in exchange the New York Mets received Jim Fregosi. There is no doubt who got the best of the trade with Ryan posting a 138-121 record and 3.07 ERA, while striking out 2,416 in his eight years with the Angels. Meanwhile, Fregosi hit .232 and .234 in two lackluster seasons with the Mets and never played in more than 78 games, in a season in his last six seasons after leaving the Mets.
Ryan was drafted in the 12th round of the first amateur draft in 1965 and was the 295th overall pick. No other player from the 12th round reached the major leagues….Ryan made at least 30 starts in all but two non-strike seasons from 1972-1990….He walked over 200 batters in the 1974 and 1977 seasons with 202 and 204 walks respectively. He led the league in walks eight times, while leading in strikeouts 11 times. He struck out 301 at the age of 42 for the Texas Rangers in 1989….Ryan is 7th on the all-time list in shutouts being tied with Tom Seaver with 61 each.
Only Randy Johnson,Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum have struck out more batters, per nine innings than Ryan’s 9.5 K’s per 9 innings….Ryan leads the all-time lists in least hits allowed per nine innings with a 6.5 mark ahead of second place Sandy Koufax and third place Sid Fernandez….His 5,714 strikeouts record should be safe with the advent of the set-up man and closer mentality in baseball today. Randy Johnson came within 839 strikeouts of his record, but nobody on the horizon is threatening the record. There may be other 3,000 strikeout pitchers, but they will still need another 2,714 strikeouts to match Ryan’s record.
Cy Young started 815 major league games and Ryan is second with 773 starts….Ryan also leads in career walks with 2,795 with Steve Carlton second with 1,833….He had a reputation of a pitcher who would hit his own grandmother with a pitch, but was only 15th on the all-time list with 158 HBP’s. Surprisingly Don Drysdale who only pitched 14 years to the 27 years of Ryan was 18th with 154 HBP’s.
It is not surprising that Ryan received 98.8 percent of the vote, in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame in 1999.


  1. youjivinmeturkey

    Yep. We Can.
    Is ANY Ballplayer Worth HUNDREDS-Of-MILLIONS-Of-BUX???
    Nope. Not A Single One.
    …Is Baseball STILL My ONE And ONLY True-Sports-Passion???
    Yep. It IS.
    “Pick-Your-Battle” As They Say, I Suppose.
    They Could Make $20 An Hour…
    …They Could Make $20MILLION A Season…
    …But I’m STILL Gonna Watch’Em =)
    Nice Article, Dude.
    Keep’Em Comin’!

  2. Andrew Godfrey

    I had always thought Ryan was making big money his whole career, but I was wrong on that one. He was being one of the best pitchers in baseball and making peanuts. Not that the $25.7 wasn’t a lot of money. $257 is a lot of money to me. I have been following baseball since the age of 10 in 1954, so will continue following baseball regardless of how outlandish the salaries become.

    Like Brad, I am going to watch the games regardless.

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