It’s hard to imagine Major League Baseball without Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

The flame-throwing pitcher, whose career spanned 27 years from 1966 to 1993, remains the Major League career leader in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (7).

Ryan pitched with four teams over the course of his career, including the New York Mets and the Houston Astros. After his retirement, he served as CEO of the Texas Rangers, a team he also played for.

He was also the first pitcher to officially record a pitch at more than 100 mph, and the first to earn a $1 million salary.

Stockton President Harvey Kesselman, left, with Leo S. Ullman as Ullman signs an agreement to donate his collection of Nolan Ryan memorabilia to the university. The collection of nearly 15,000 items will be part of a future course at the university. (Photo Credit: Stockton University)
Stockton President Harvey Kesselman, left, with Leo S. Ullman as Ullman signs an agreement to donate his collection of Nolan Ryan memorabilia to the university. The collection of nearly 15,000 items will be part of a future course at the university. (Photo Credit: Stockton University)
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One huge Nolan Ryan fan is none other than Leo S. Ullman, the 83-year-old real estate investor and former owner of the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township. Over nearly three decades, Ullman amassed one of the most extraordinary memorabilia collections ever, with nearly 15,000 individual items. Those items were recently appraised as being worth more than $1 million.

Ullman said his collection started as "a complete fluke" as he was waiting for the birth of his grandson. Looking to kill time, Ullman stopped at a card show at a motel located near the hospital. It was there that he made his first Nolan Ryan purchases – a dozen Nolan Ryan cards for $1 each.

And now, those items belong to Stockton University.

Why Stockton?

Ullman recently donated his collection to Stockton University and now the school is developing a class on collecting with an exhibit as its focus for the spring 2023 semester.

“Stockton is excited to become the new home for Leo’s vast and unique collection of Nolan Ryan memorabilia,” said Leamor Kahanov, Stockton provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Ullman has ties to the school that go back several years. He and his wife funded the creation of the Schimmel and Hoogenboom Righteous Remembrance Room at the university’s Sara & Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, which honors those who sheltered and protected Ullman and his family during the Holocaust.

Leo S. Ullman, left, with Stockton President Harvey Kesselman (Photo Credit: Stockton University)
Leo S. Ullman, left, with Stockton President Harvey Kesselman (Photo Credit: Stockton University)
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The collection

The Nolan Ryan collection, believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, features more than 8,500 baseball cards, about 3,000 of which are signed by hand.

Other Ryan items in Ullman’s collection include a watercolor painting of Ryan by Dick Perez of Perez-Steele Galleries that was used in Ryan’s 1999 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, high school yearbooks, signed cowboy boots, a full-size leather saddle featuring Ryan’s likeness, hand-painted baseballs by American pop artist Charles Fazzino and signed by Nolan, and more.

A new documentary titled “Facing Nolan,” will be available on streaming services on July 19.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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