all aboard the express

Houston Astros legend Nolan Ryan's must-see documentary screens for limited time

Astros legend Nolan Ryan's must-see film screens for limited time

Facing Nolan film Nolan Ryan
Facing Nolan boasts widespread acclaim and a 100-percent rating. Photo courtesy of Utopia Distribution

Towering, intimidating, and possessing one of the most blistering fastballs ever witnessed in Major League Baseball, Nolan Ryan — the pride of Alvin High School, Houston Astros, and one of the most acclaimed pitchers in MLB history, is the stuff of Texas legend and lore.

Now, the slow-talking, fast-throwing ace is the subject of a new film screening across Texas and the nation. Facing Nolan, already in limited release, will screen Tuesday, May 24. Fans can find the closest theater screening the film here.

Here in Houston, Nolan Ryan’s son, Reid Ryan, will host a Q&A session following the 7 pm screening at Memorial City Mall. “The post-film Q&A will be exciting to share all the behind-the-scenes stories,” Reid Ryan tells CultureMap. Reid, a former Houston Astros president and pro player himself, is an executive producer on the film and says his dad is a fan. “He is really pleased with how it turned out,” says Reid.

And battles they were. Indeed, the title Facing Nolan speaks to what major league hitters secretly dreaded when they stepped up to the plate and started down the six-foot-two Ryan, who regularly threw 100 mph and once clocked a 98 mph fastball — at the staggering age of 46.

The film, which received rave reviews at its SXSW premiere and currently boasts a 100-percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, centers on Nolan Ryan’s career, which started in Refugio, Texas, took him through Alvin High School and Alvin Community College, on the way to an illustrious, 27-year career with the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. He boasts 51 MLB records, including the most career strikeouts and no-hitters and is known by many as No. 34 and “The Ryan Express.”

His career was made for the movies: Ryan once pitched with his jersey covered in blood and ran his cattle ranch during the off-season. And no fan can ever forget the iconic, in-game brawl between Ryan — then of the Texas Rangers — and Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, who, at 20 years younger than Ryan, found himself on the wrong end of the pitcher’s headlock.

Directed by Bradley Jackson, Facing Nolan features new interviews with notables such as President George W. Bush, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pete Rose, Dave Winfield, and a host of former players. 

Despite being a terror on the mound, Ryan has been the consummate gentleman in his retirement, something his former opponents observe now . “He was surprised,” Reid adds, “to hear other players fondly reminisce about their infield battles.”

For a full list of participating Houston-area theaters, visit the official film event site.