All hail Nolan Ryan. Baseball's alltime strikeout leader fanned the Mets' Danny Heep for his 4,000th K last Thursday, and one of his fastballs in the game was timed at 97 mph. Imagine that. After 3,847‚Öì innings, 4,004 strikeouts and 2,139 walks, the 38-year-old is still one of the hardest throwers in baseball. "He amazes me," says Met pitcher Dwight Gooden, himself somewhat amazing. "I hope I can throw like that when I'm 38."
But Ryan should be hailed for something besides his remarkable arm. Baseball's alltime walk leader has become a control pitcher. In 1971 he averaged a career-high 6.9 walks per nine. Last year he was down to a career-low 3.4 batters per nine innings, and this year he has it down to 3.0. "And I'm gonna get it down less than that," says Ryan, whose first strikeout victim was Pat Jarvis on Sept. 11, 1966. "I'm a more rounded pitcher than I've ever been. A lot of guys came through with great arms but never did what I've done, and a lot of critics I had at an early age made statements that I'd never last. I've proved them wrong."
If it was the last play of his career, Buck Martinez went out in style. The right-handed hitting half of the Blue Jays' catching platoon broke his right fibula and dislocated his ankle in Seattle on July 9 while he was making both putouts of a weird and courageous double play. Martinez, 36, is probably out for the rest of the season.
The play began with Phil Bradley, who had been an option quarterback at the University of Missouri, trying to score from second on Gorman Thomas's single to right in the third inning of a 9-4 game the Jays won in extra innings. Jesse Bar-field's throw home easily beat Bradley, who made believe Martinez was a cornerback and ran over him. But Martinez held on to the ball and when he saw Thomas going to third, he tried to throw him out, even though he was dazed and lying on his back in the dirt by the plate. His throw was wide of third, and Thomas touched the bag and headed for home. Leftfielder George Bell retrieved the baseball and threw it home. Martinez, still prone, caught the ball on a short hop and made the tag on Thomas. Then he was carried off on a stretcher.
"He did it on instincts and guts alone," said manager Bobby Cox. "I'd like to get a videotape of that," said Martinez.
In 1983 he was an Expo and had eight home runs during the season. In 1984 he was a Giant and a Phillie and didn't hit a homer. For three months of 1985 Al Oliver, a lifetime .305 hitter, spent most of his time on the Dodgers' bench, hitting .253, with no homers in 79 at bats. Last week he moved again, this time to Toronto, his seventh team (the Pirates and Rangers were the first two). If he stays around long enough, Oliver may break the modern record for playing with the most teams: 10, held jointly by Tommy Davis, Ken Brett and Robert L. Miller. Oliver began his Blue Jay career July 10 in Seattle with three RBIs and his first home run since '83.
Some of the reasons the Braves are eight under .500 at the All-Star break: Pitcher Rick Camp has more home runs—one—than outfielder Brad Komminsk; Rick Mahler, another pitcher, has more RBIs than catcher Bruce Benedict (7-4).... Davey Lopes, the Cubs' 39-year-old supersub, is 33 for 35 stealing and could win the Jack Benny Award by becoming the first player to steal 50 bases after his 39th birthday.... The early word on Steve Carlton's rehab program for his sore left shoulder isn't good. Some Philly veterans are not pleased that Lefty, who has become a law unto himself in recent years, is allowed to stay home in St. Louis while he's on the DL.
Yogi Berra was a no-show for the Yankees' Old-Timers' Day on Saturday. He has told friends he'll have nothing to do with the Yankees as long as George Steinbrenner owns the team.... Roger Clemens, the Red Sox' fireballing wunderkind last year, may be out for the season with a sore shoulder, which is why Tim Lollar was picked up from the White Sox last week for Reid Nichols.... Cleveland's Andre Thornton, batting 142 through June, has finally started to hit (14 RBIs in 12 games). He missed most of spring training and the first two weeks of the season with a knee injury.
For a number of years, the baseball writers for the New York Post have graded the Yankees and Mets at midseason. On Sunday, the rival Daily News went the Post one better: It let the players grade themselves. Here are some of the more interesting marks and remarks.
Dwight Gooden: B—. Gooden, 13-3, leads the NL with 153 Ks and a 1.68 ERA but thinks he has been "throwing the ball great but I've made some mistakes that cost us games." His ERA in his three losses and four no-decisions is 3.11.
Don Mattingly: B—. He's hitting .309 and leads the AL with 69 RBIs but feels "I've been too inconsistent on offense. I also made a couple of mental mistakes on defense." His only physical mistake ended a 153-game errorless streak.
Don Baylor: F. Baylor has 15 HRs and 60 RBIs, third in the AL, but says, "I have to give myself an F because of inconsistency."
Joe Cowley: A—. The team flake, 7-3 with a 3.55 ERA, admits, "I really don't deserve an A but you've got to understand I never got one in high school and as long as this was an opportunity to grade myself, I couldn't resist."
STEVE VECKERT/HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Ryan warmed up his heater before registering his 4,000th strikeout against the Mets.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BOB HORNER: The Braves' first baseman, recovering from wrist surgery, had four homers, 11 RBIs and a slugging percentage of 1.130. On Saturday he had a home run, a triple and two doubles.
"The only thing I don't like about him," said St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog of Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser IV, "is that he named his son Orel Hershiser the Fifth. My name is Dorrel Norman Elvert, and I didn't name any of my kids that."