1980 - 1988
With his success with the California Angels and his mutual respect for owner Gene Autry, Nolan had thought he would finish his career with the Angels. Unfortunately he did not anticipate general manager Buzz Bavassi. Negotiations between Nolan's agent - Dick Moss - and Bavassi became so hostile, Nolan had made up his mind he was not returning to the Angels as long as Bavassi was the GM.
Bavassi had underestimated Nolan's value in the free agent market as he was selected by 12 teams in the re-entry draft. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner actively presued Nolan but when Moss informed Nolan the Houston Astros were interested in his services, Nolan instructed Moss to do whatever possible to cut a deal with the Astros.
Nolan's quest to play for the team he watched as a kid growing up in Alvin became a reality when new Houston Astros owner John McMullen offered a three year contract worth a million dollars a season. Nolan had become the first salaried million dollar athelete.
- April 12, 1980 - First Astros' start vs Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston
- 6IP 6H 4R 4ER 5BB 3SO
- No decision
- On national television, hits first career homerun (a 3 run shot) to cap off an Astros' four run fourth inning
- Mound opponent - Don Sutton
- Catcher - Alan Ashby
- July 4, 1980 - Strikes out Cincinatti Reds' Cesar Geronimo for career strikeout #3,000
- September 26, 1981 - Pitches 5th no hitter
- 1981 - Leads the league with a 1.69 ERA posting one of the best post World War II ERAs
- 1981 - Houston Astros' Most Valuable Player
- April 27, 1983 - Strikes out Montreal Expos' Brad Mills to record strikeout #3,509 breaking Walter Johnson's 56 year old record for most strikeouts
- August 31, 1984 - The career strikeout lead went back and forth between Nolan and Steve Carlton since Walter Johnson's record was eclipsed initially by Nolan on April 27, 1983. On this day, the St. Louis
Cardinals Terry Pendelton became Nolan's strikeout victim #3,854 giving him the lead he would never relinquish.
- July 11, 1985 - Strikes out New York Mets' Danny Heep for career strikeout #4,000 becoming the 1st pitcher to do so. Trivia question: Who was on the field for Nolan's
1st career strikeout and his historic 4.000th? Answer: Bud Harrelson - Played shortstop for the Mets when Nolan recorded his 1st and was the 3rd base coach for the Mets when Nolan recorded his 4,000th.
- May 1, 1987 - Hits second career homerun (as his first, a three run shot) against Charlie Puleo of the Atlanta Braves
- 1987 - Earns the dubious distinction as the only pitcher at the time to lead the league in strikeouts (270) and ERA (2.76) not to win the Cy Young Award.
In 2019, Gerrit Cole also lead the league in strikeouts and ERA lost out to Houston Astros' teammate Justin Verlander for the award.
- 1987 - Elected to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame
- July 9, 1988 - 100th Win as a Houston Astros vs New York Mets @ Houston
- 5th pitcher in team history to win 100 games ( Don Wilson, Larry Dierker, J.R. Richard, and Joe Neikro )
- 7th pitcher in MLB history to win 100 games in each the American and National League ( Pud Galvin, John Clarkson, Bob Caruthers, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove and Cy Young )
- 2nd pitcher in MLB history to win 100 games for 2 different teams and 100 games in each league ( Cy Young )
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