Nolan Ryan on homeplate in 1990. Photo by Sally Harrison

Nolan Ryan and the Rangers are headed back to Texas for the sixth game of the American Baseball League playoffs this Friday.

The last time I saw Ryan in Rangers Stadium, he was standing over home plate atop a cutting horse. It was August 1990 and major league baseball’s all-time strikeout leader and newest 300-game winner was there to help publicize a cutting event conceived by Rangers’ president Mike Stone.

Ryan, a native Texan, had signed on with the team in 1989, at the age of 42. “I’ve always followed cutting horses because I consider them to be the true athletes of all horses,” he said the day of the press conference.

The World Series of Cutting, with a $200,000 purse, was scheduled for October 26-28, 1990, in Rangers’ Stadium, Arlington, Texas. According to Stone, the Rangers would cover the estimated $100,000-cost of setting up temporary pens with portable fences and 200 truckloads of dirt spread over a plastic-topped plywood base between the pitcher’s mound and the backstop.

Stone, a Michigan native, was introduced to cutting at the 1988 NCHA Futurity and competed in the 1989 Futurity Celebrity Cutting. Within a few months later, he and his wife had each purchased a cutting horse to show.

“We want to make this a big annual event,” said Stone, who envisioned educational cutting demonstrations at home games, as well as promotion through Rangers radio broadcasts and on the stadium’s Diamond Vision big screen.

One month after the public announcement of the World Series of Cutting, Stone was forced out as president of the Rangers by George W. Bush, managing partner of the investment group that had purchased the Rangers in 1989.

Bush said that Stone’s resignation would “enable the club to focus on new marketing directions.” He did not elaborate.