A fan favorite, Ryan was 42 years old and a 21-year major league veteran in 1989, but continued to deliver consistently powerful pitching. He was 14-7 coming into the game on August 22, with 219 strikeouts, and needed just six more to reach the 5,000-strikout milestone. Rickey Henderson led off the top of the fifth inning with Ryan sitting on 4,999. Henderson, as he did so often in his long career–he retired as the all-time walks leader–worked the count full, fouling off two pitches at a 3-2 count before swinging at and missing a low, 96-mile-per-hour fastball. After the game, Henderson told The New York Times, ”It was an honor to be the 5,000th. As Davey Lopes says, ‘If he ain’t struck you out, you ain’t nobody.’ ”
Ryan had requested before the game that play not be stopped to honor him. Instead, after the fifth inning, Ryan was saluted by President George H.W. Bush in a videotaped message. (The president’s son George W. Bush was then the owner of the Rangers.)
Despite a typically solid performance by Ryan, who had 13 strikeouts for the day and allowed only five hits and two walks, the Rangers lost the game 2-0. Ryan finished the season with a 16-10 record and a 3.20 ERA., and led the American League in strikeouts with 301. It was the 10th of 11 times in his 27-year career that Ryan led his league in strikeouts.
Ryan is most famous for his record seven no-hitters; the last came in 1991 when he was 44 years old.
– History.com Staff