After getting plunked by Nolan Ryan, Ventura charged the mound and absorbed several punches from the future Hall of Famer while wrapped in a headlock. Nearly two decades later, the encounter remains a YouTube staple.
The video recently made news when the Rangers announced they will no longer show it on their outfield scoreboard. Texas and Chicago will meet in their season opener April 6, and Rangers officials scrapped the video out of respect to Ventura. After some internal debate, team executives also decided the fight had run its course as a ballpark entertainment vehicle.
Fans apparently aren't thrilled with the decision.
"I don't care," Ventura said. "It's not like I haven't seen it."
Circumstances surrounding the incident haven't been fully shared for public consumption, but this much is clear: Some hard feelings had developed between the Rangers and White Sox, then AL West rivals, and Ventura was determined to take a stand. Halfway toward the mound, he appeared to lose enthusiasm upon realizing that he was running smack into a middle-aged Texas legend. But he still earned some serious credibility with teammates.
"The story you hear is that the Rangers had hit some of the White Sox guys, and Robin stood up in the clubhouse and said, 'If this guy hits me. I'm going out there. Be ready.' That's a pretty gutsy thing to say with Nolan Ryan. Sure enough, Robin got hit, and there he went,'' Paul Konerko says.
Konerko, then 17, was playing for the U.S. Junior National Team in 1993. As fate would have it, the squad trained in Tyler, Texas, and drove two hours to Arlington the night of Aug. 4 for the White Sox-Rangers game. Konerko remembers Ventura, a former U.S. Olympic team member, dropping by to deliver a few words of encouragement to the team before the game. Then the junior Olympians took their seats in right field.
"Two hours later, it was a riot," Konerko says. "People were chanting 'Nolan! Nolan!' for about five innings. It was awesome."