Facing Nolan

I love a story of the American dream and Nolan Ryan is it!

He comes from a small town and never forgets his roots.

He marries his high school sweetheart. Becomes a baseball star in the shiny big city. But then comes back to play for his teams in Texas.

Amazingly, he becomes better with age (as my buddy David Hain told me, he even struck out a father and son (Tito Francona in 1966 and son Terry Francona in 1986).

And when he hangs up the glove, he retires on a ranch where he’s hands on and sells “Nolan Ryan Beef”.

And he’s still with his sweetheart.

I love this doc!

Trailer for “Facing Nolan”

Watch “Facing Nolan”

You can stream “Facing Nolan” on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81615834. But it’s not a Netflix original meaning it could get pulled. Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/facing-nolan


  • My Rating: 98/100
  • IMDB Rating: 8/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 95/100 (Users); 98/100 (Critics)

Review of Facing Nolan

I love “Facing Nolan”.

We all know Nolan as a baseball legend. He played an astonishing 27 seasons (1966-1993).

Seven no-hitters, 5,714 strikeouts, 324 wins.

Not only does Ryan hold the record for most no-hitters, he also holds the record for most 1-hitters (12); most 2-hitters (18) and most 3-hitters (31).

The numbers are staggering, records still standing.

But this 2022 doc (102 minutes) goes beyond stats. It explores what drove Nolan’s longevity.

The film covers his entire career arc.

Ryan as a rookie for the Mets. He’s brought into the 1969 National League Championship as a reliever and clinches the pennant.

Then, Ryan joins the California Angeles and strikes out 383 batters in 1973, breaking Sandy Koufax’s single-season record of 382 set in 1965.

Then there’s the trade to the Astros, making him the first $1 million player in sports. Nolan throws his 5th no-hitter, breaking Sandy Koufax’s record.

And the doc concludes with his retirement from the Texas Rangers in 1993.

We even get to see a bit of his retirement life on his ranch.

His children provide fascinating insights too. They reflect on an often-absent father. Baseball always came first during their upbringing. Fame impacted the family in bittersweet ways.

You’ll be in awe of Nolan’s achievements.

Ryan’s Workout Regiment

His legendary work ethic is a focus. Nolan’s fitness routines were ahead of his time. Old-school teammates share amusing anecdotes about this.

Even in his 40s, Nolan outworked younger players.

Nolan was doing intense weight training as early as 1972. This was revolutionary at the time. Most baseball players avoided the gym. They feared bulking up would ruin their flexibility.

But Nolan recognized the importance of strength training.

He would lift for hours on end. Often continuing reps until his muscles quivered from exhaustion. Teammates marveled at his routines.

One player joked that Nolan lifted until “the bat boy had a hernia.”

The documentary highlights Nolan’s running routines extensively.

He ran wind sprints religiously, even on game days. Nolan figured this would boost his stamina late into starts.

It worked – he routinely threw 120+ pitches an outing.

In 1989, at age 42, Sports Illustrated clocked Nolan’s fastball at 98 mph.

Nolan gets better with age. He gets 10.1 strikeouts per 9 innings at age 39-46 (versus 9.2 at ages 29-38).

His fitness efforts allowed him to maintain velocity. This despite being nearly twice the age of some hitters.

The film also covers Nolan’s diet and sleep habits. He avoided junk food and alcohol.

Nolan was in bed every night by 9pm, without fail. He once walked out on a president who requested a late meeting. Nothing would compromise Nolan’s sleep schedule.

These details paint a vivid picture. They make Nolan’s longevity feel earned, not accidental.

His commitment to fitness seemed almost superhuman.

But it came through old-fashioned hard work. The kind many modern athletes could still learn from.

The film doesn’t ignore Nolan’s flaws. His competitive intensity could be overbearing. He struggled to express emotions at times.

But you gain an appreciation for him. As both an athlete and a man.

Nolan Ryan/Bushnell Fight

Nolan Ryan Fights

And how about the fights?

Do you remember that headlock on Robin Ventura during a game on August 4, 1993.

On that day, Nolan Ryan, then 46 years old, hit Robin Ventura, a 26-year-old third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, with a pitch.

Ventura, evidently angered by the hit, charged the mound to confront Ryan.

Ryan responded by putting Ventura in a headlock. Ryan then landed several punches on his head before the benches cleared .

Both teams joined the fray on the field.

The doc portrays this incident not just as a moment of conflict but also highlights Ryan’s perspective and reaction.

Ryan described the fight as an act of “self-preservation,” indicating that he did not expect the confrontation to escalate as it did.

He mentioned that his intention was merely to pitch inside, not to instigate a fight.

This incident is often recalled by Ryan with a sense of amazement at how memorable it has become among fans. He laments it overshadows his other career accomplishments

Nolan Ryan’s Family Life

I appreciate the candid family interviews.. Nolan’s wife Ruth is a centerpiece. Ruth is Nolan’s high school sweetheart!

She openly discusses their relationship challenges over their many years.

But she says it was well worth it.

In one cute scene, they stroll down a trail in their vast South Texas ranch sprawl.

The filmmaker, probably trying to catch a little magic on camera, tosses out a question to Ruth. Probably something like: “Ever think your life would end up like this?”

Ruth turns, a smile touching her eyes, and delivers a killer line:

“I never dreamed this would happen,” she says, and then, with a glance that sums up decades, adds,

“But then again, I just wanted to be with him.”

Director Bradley Jackson delivers an intimate, moving portrait. One that humanizes an immortal sports figure. “Facing Nolan” feels like time well spent.

It’s a celebration of old-school values. Grit, humility, integrity – Nolan embodies them all.

I recommend this film wholeheartedly. It entertains, informs and uplifts. You don’t have to love baseball.

Just a well-told story of the human spirit. When the credits roll, you’ll be smiling. And maybe seeing untapped potential in yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc