IRVING, Tex. — Thursday morning at 7:30, 4 1/2 hours after getting to bed, he was in a room underneath Arlington Stadium lifting weights.
An extra hour or two of sleep, the morning television shows, even the congratulatory phone calls--they would all have to wait.
No-hitter No. 7? No big deal. Nolan Ryan had work to do.
"My life revolves around my workout routine right now," the Texas Ranger right-hander said at a news conference later in the day, offering about as good an explanation as any for how, at 44, he had held the Toronto Blue Jays hitless the previous night.
In perhaps the most dominating performance of his 25-year major league career, Ryan struck out 16 and walked only two in a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays, who began the game leading the American League in hitting and runs scored.
For historical perspective, consider that, in what has generally been regarded as Ryan's finest no-hitter, he struck out 17 and walked four against Detroit while pitching for the Angels in 1973.
Also consider that the Angel second baseman in that game was Sandy Alomar, whose son, Blue Jay second baseman Roberto Alomar, struck out to end Wednesday's game.
Ryan says he doesn't pay as much attention to his age as others do. But he admitted that striking out Roberto Alomar to tie down the no-hitter made him feel at least a little bit up in years.
"I knew him when he was a toddler in the (Angel) clubhouse," Ryan said. "He wanted to be a pitcher at the time, and I can remember playing with him in the clubhouse, working with him on throwing. That's how you tell how much time passes--when you see people (he once played with) with kids (in the major leagues)."
This was supposed to be a season of relative tranquility for Ryan, who, amid much fanfare, recorded his 5,000th strikeout in 1989 and earned his 300th victory in '90. Also last season, on a June night in Oakland, he pitched his sixth no-hitter--and first since 1981--making him the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter.
But he added to his legend Wednesday, allowing only thewalks in the first and seventh innings. And so there he was Thursday on a platform in a hotel ballroom, taking time out from a day-off appearance at a charitable function to answer the usual questions about his past, present and future.
Having pitched three more no-hitters than any pitcher in major league history, Ryan is assured a place among the giants of baseball. But, self-effacing as always, he declined to offer perspective Thursday.
"I never think about things like that," he said. "Keeping up my career is an ongoing deal, and I have to concern myself with my next game. So I don't sit around and reflect on what's happening. Once a game's over. . . . Well, it's like this morning. I was down in the weight room preparing myself for my next start. That's what I have to concern myself with--my routine--so I'll be ready.
"That's not to say I didn't hope to be in position to throw another no-hitter and be able to do it in Arlington for the (Ranger) fans. I'm just appreciative it worked out. It was a neat night."
Ryan had outstanding command of all three of his pitches--fastball, curveball and changeup--making the no-hitter, in his view, a testimonial to his maturation from fastball pitcher to total pitcher over the past 10 years.
"Last night was more a reflection on me as a complete pitcher than any other time, as far as no-hitters are concerned," he said. "If you look at (his) early no-hitters, they were more on natural ability. Then I had a transition period. A lot of time elapsed between the fourth no-hitter (in 1975) and the fifth (in '81) and the fifth and the sixth. Those represent transition periods when I lost some velocity, but my curveball became more consistent."
Ryan came out of spring training this year feeling good, his conditioning aided by good winter weather in his home town of Alvin, Tex., and the good graces of his neighbor and personal workout catcher, former major leaguer Harry Spilman.
But as he prepared to face the Blue Jays with a 2-2 record Wednesday, Ryan had back pain, a sore Achilles' tendon and bleeding, cracked skin on the middle finger of his right hand.
"He said, 'I've been popping Advils all day, and it ain't helping,' " Ranger pitching coach Tom House said.
On top of all that, Ryan was pitching on four days' rest. Pitching on four days' rest last year, he was 6-7 with a 4.07 earned-run average.
Trying to explain how he pitched a no-hitter under such conditions, Ryan said: "When things aren't quite right physically, you can become more focused on what you have to do. A lot of times in those games, you get through the first few innings, you finally find a rhythm and things fall into place.