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Facing Nolan (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 1, 2022


Featuring Nolan Ryan, President George W. Bush, Craig Biggio, Steve Buechele, George Brett, Rod Carew, Roger Clemens, Tom Grieve, Tom House, Randy Johnson, Pete Rose, Ivan Rodriguez, Bobby Valentine, Dave Winfield, Bobby Witt, Jerry Grote, Phil Garner, Jeff Torborg, Bobby Grich, Cal Ripken Jr., Craig Reynolds, Enos Cabell, Kevin Bass, Art Howe, Alan Ashby, Jose Cruz Sr., Terry Puhl, Mike Scott, Mike Maddux, Rob Goldman, Barry Warner, John McClain, Aubrey Horner, George Pugh, Ann Ferguson McDougal, Ruth Ryan, Reid Ryan, Reese Ryan, Wendy Bivins, Victoria Ryan, Caroline Ryan, Ella Ryan and Julia Ryan.

Written by Bradley Jackson.

Directed by Bradley Jackson.

Distributed by Utopia. 105 minutes. Not Rated.

While for decades the popular opinion has been that the one most-unbreakable record in baseball is Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, I’ve always disagreed. Yes, that is a spectacular achievement and in the 81 years since it happened only three players have come within 20 games of breaking the record. (Pete Rose had a 44-game streak in 1978, Paul Molitor had a 39-game streak in 1987 and Jimmy Rollins had a 38-game streak spanning the 2005 and 2006 seasons.)

Still, there has always been a record that I felt was even more unlikely to break than that one. It is simply this: Nolan Ryan pitched SEVEN no-hitters in his career. Think about that. Some of the greatest pitchers ever have never gotten one no-hitter. Sandy Koufax is the only other pitcher in history who has as many as four. Only four have had as many as three (Cy Young, Justin Verlander, Bob Feller and Larry Corcoran).

Add to that the fact that in modern baseball it is rare for a starting pitcher to be allowed to pitch a full game, the chances of anyone even getting a whiff of Ryan’s record are infinitesimal.

Not just because of this record, but I can say as a life-long baseball fan who has seen many, many superstars over the years, Nolan Ryan was the single most dominating pitcher that I have ever seen.

He’s not always thought of when people bring up the all-time greats, mostly because he tended to play for fairly bad teams, thus his win-loss records were a little spotty and he rarely made the playoffs. In fact, he only was on one World Series-champion team in a near-30-year career, the 1969 “Miracle” Mets, and at the time he was a youngster who was pitching out of the bullpen. Also his 100-mile-an-hour fast ball (in a time when that was exceedingly rare) could be a little wild.

However, think of this: beyond the record for no-hitters, he also holds the record for one-hitters (12, tied with Bob Feller), two-hitters (18) and three hitters (31). He also holds the career record for strikeouts (5,714), 300-strikeout seasons (6) and 200-strikeout seasons (15). That my friends, is domination.

Of course, he also has the record for most walks allowed, too. Go big or go home.

Facing Nolan is entertaining as a sports documentary because that is exactly what it is. Like its subject, it has no major bells and whistles, just an hour and 45 minutes mostly made up of some fantastic film of 27 years of pitching dominance.

Oh, sure, periodically the film will veer off into other subjects, mostly exploring Ryan’s obvious great love of his family, which appears to be the one thing on Earth that is even more important to the man than baseball is. It also touches on his outside work as a spokesman (there is a funny scene where two of Ryan’s granddaughters good-naturedly mock his old Advil ads), his love of animals, his ranch and Texas, and his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But mostly, Facing Nolan puts you in the batter’s box as one of the greatest pitchers – if not THE greatest pitcher – in the game wove his magic. They literally got dozens of former major leaguers – both teammates and opponents – to discuss the sheer dominance that Ryan exhibited in his 27 seasons in the big leagues.

However, even more interesting is letting the big guy talk about himself. He may be a legend, but he’s also humble and funny about his place in the show. Unlike his former opponents, no baseball fan should hesitate about Facing Nolan.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: June 26, 2022.

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