Just as the roadway leading up to Love Field (Herb Kelleher Way) is named in honor of the man who helped put it on the map, the expressway going into the ballpark a few miles to the west bears the name of another north Texas legend – Nolan Ryan. Both Herb and Nolan are hall of famers in their own right, and both helped build their organizations to greatness. And in February 1989, Nolan helped lend his notoriety to Southwest when he became our official cargo spokesman, or perhaps a more fitting title, chief pitchman. For many years Ryan had lent his voice to speaking on behalf of Southwest and our growing cargo program. Both his fastball and our shipments make their way across the plate fast and accurate, although the freight in the bins of our 737s usually travel a little further and were met on the other end by a “catcher” wearing a slightly thinner mitt.
In recognition of Ryan’s efforts to help Southwest reach Major (airline) status a few months after signing on, Herb offered the Major League pitcher a gift to show his appreciation. “I wanted to give Nolan something that would really mean something to him, so I gave him a baseball that I autographed.”
When it came time for Nolan to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, a special flight was arranged in his honor to take the strike-out king and his party of 80 from Love Field to New York with stop in Houston to pick up a few additional guest, including the Lt. Governor of Texas. To help celebrate the accomplishment, the aircraft was christened as Nolan Ryan Express, a dedication that it still wears today.