Innings and pitch counts go a long way in determining the length of a starting pitcher's performance.

But that's a fairly recent measuring stick in Major League Baseball.

Consider 46 years ago today — June 14, 1974. Nolan Ryan of the California Angels threw 235 pitches but was not involved in the decision in the Angels' 4-3, 15-inning victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Pitch counts were not frequently tabulated before 1988, and that makes Tim Wakefield's 172 pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 1993, the most on record.

But on Ryan's start against the Red Sox, Angels pitching coach Tom Morgan kept a pitch count on a handheld clicker for some reason. And that did not include warmup pitches before the game and before each half-inning.

Ryan pitched 13 innings, struck out 19 batters — 16 in the first nine innings — and walked 10. First baseman Cecil Cooper, the Red Sox's leadoff batter, went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. He struck out only 68 more times in the entire season.

Ryan threw a minimum of 25 pitches in the fourth inning when the Red Sox scored a run without putting the ball in play. First Ryan walked the bases loaded before getting a strikeout for the first out. Another walk forced in a run before Ryan fanned the next two batters.

Ryan lost the lead on Carl Yastrzemski's two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning. Barry Raziano pitched the final two innings and got the win — the only win of his 15-game, 21-inning career. He appeared in five innings over two games for the Kansas City Royals in 1973 and then in 13 games for the Angels in '74.

And get this: Ryan did not have the longest outing in the game.

Boston's Luis Tiant pitched a complete game, losing on Denny Doyle's run-scoring double with one out in the 15th inning. Tiant fanned five and walked four while throwing an estimated 200 pitches.

Ryan had 26 complete games in 41 starts in 1974. His effort against the Red Sox met the requirements of today's quality start — three earned runs or less in at least six innings — but Ryan's standards were much higher.

"In those days, if I had pitched only six innings and gave up three runs, I had a bad outing and I was hacked off," Ryan told the Los Angeles Times 30 years after the game. "And my manager and general manager weren't happy either."

In the '74 bullpen, Orlando Pena led the Angels with three saves.

"In those days," Ryan told the Times, "I was my own closer."

JIM HENRY is sports editor of the Globe and receives correspondence at jhenry@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.

Recommended for you