On April 30, 1974, legendary P Nolan Ryan started a game for the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) against the Boston Red Sox. In the first inning of the game, when Red Sox INF Doug Griffin was attempting to lay down a bunt versus Ryan, he was beaned in the head by a fastball, knocking him unconscious. The pitch, which hit Griffin just above the left ear, did not fracture his skull but resulted in a “severe concussion.“
At that point in his career, Ryan was known for his wildness and opposing hitters were more concerned about being struck by his fastball than their ability to square it up. According to Angels coach John Roseboro in an interview with Sports Illustrated, “The hitters don’t really know where he’s gonna be throwing the ball. You don’t dig in against him unless you are an imbecile.” Fellow baseball legend Reggie Jackson said Ryan was “the only pitcher who’s ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap.”
Griffin’s beaning left him with temporary hearing loss and he missed over two months of the season. The incident is blamed for shortening his big-league career. Although there was skepticism about Ryan being able to sustain a career as a power pitcher over the long term, he ended up retiring following the 1993 season after 27 years in the majors, with a win-loss record of 324-292 and 5,714 strikeouts.
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