xml:space="preserve">

By total accident, my spouse and I saw Nolan Ryan win No. 324, his last victory in an amazing career.

It's no accident that we'll be in the upper deck, behind home plate Wednesday night, when Randy Johnson of the San Francisco Giants takes the mound against the Washington Nationals in search of win No. 300.

Advertisement

In this age of tiny ballparks and miniscule strike zones, how often does a fan get to see two pitching milestones? And given the fact that no other pitcher is even close to 300, it seems more important than ever.

In other words, you should go.

Here's our story. We were in Cleveland to attend three games at Municipal Stadium, the "Mistake By The Lake," with 74,000 seats both cavernous and cramped to say nothing of cold and damp. The old ballpark, opened in 1932, was scheduled to be abandoned at the end of the season in favor of Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field). So before 1993's Opening Day, we booked a weekend trip.

It wasn't until we got to Cleveland that we learned Ryan, in the final year of his baseball career, would face Jose Mesa, two years before his league-leading 46-save season.

The 46-year-old Ryan was 4-3, with an ERA over 4.00. Mesa was about half his age but equally mediocre. Two games already in hand at the old ballpark, we thought about returning to Baltimore early.

But before a crowd of 60,000, Ryan shined over seven innings. He quieted the bats of Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle and gave up two hits and one run. Striking out two and walking two, Ryan left to an ovation, tipping his hat before reaching the dugout.

The Rangers won, 4-1.

Ryan would lose two more games that season to finish at .500. His ERA was 4.88, the worst in his career with the exception of his two games with the 1966 Mets (15.00 ERA).

But the game remains a keeper in the memory banks, like Flanagan being the last Orioles pitcher on the mound at Memorial Stadium and Ripken breaking Gehrig's consecutive games streak.

Johnson is 44. His record is 4-4 and his ERA is 5.71 (sound familiar?). He gave up four runs, but beat the Nationals on May 11. In his last start, he beat Atlanta by holding batters to one run on three hits.

He's up against Jordan Zimmerman, who has lost his last four starts and has an ERA of 6.07.

The planets are in alignment. Nationals Park is an hour away. Tickets are available. See history.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement