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Towering, intimidating, and possessing one of the most blistering fastballs ever witnessed in Major League Baseball, Nolan Ryan — one of the most acclaimed pitchers in MLB history — is the stuff of Texas legend and lore.

Now, the slow-talking, fast-throwing ace is the subject of a new film screening across Austin, Texas, and the nation. Facing Nolan will screen in movie theaters one night only, Tuesday, May 24, at 7 pm through Fathom Events. Fans can find the closest theater screening the film here.

According to the Associated Press, Facing Nolan will show on 850 screens in theaters across the country May 24, and the 105-minute documentary will be available for streaming later this year. A public showing followed a Texas Rangers home game in Arlington on May 1, the anniversary of Ryan’s seventh no-hitter in 1991.

Ryan's son Reid Ryan, a former Houston Astros president and pro player himself, is an executive producer on the film and says his dad is a fan.

“He is really pleased with how it turned out,” says Reid.

The title Facing Nolan speaks to what major league hitters secretly dreaded when they stepped up to the plate and started down the six-foot-two Ryan, who regularly threw 100 mph and once clocked a 98 mph fastball — at the staggering age of 46.

The film, which received rave reviews at its SXSW premiere and currently boasts a 100-percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, centers on Ryan’s career, which started in Refugio, Texas, took him through Alvin High School and Alvin Community College in Texas, on the way to an illustrious, 27-year career with the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. After his retirement, he was part owner, president, and CEO of the Rangers for several years.

He boasts 51 MLB records, including the most career strikeouts and no-hitters and is known by many as No. 34 and “The Ryan Express.”

His career was made for the movies: Ryan once pitched with his jersey covered in blood and ran his cattle ranch during the off-season. And no fan can ever forget the iconic, in-game brawl between Ryan — then of the Texas Rangers — and Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, who, at 20 years younger than Ryan, found himself on the wrong end of the pitcher’s headlock.

Directed by Bradley Jackson, Facing Nolan features new interviews with notables such as President George W. Bush, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pete Rose, Dave Winfield, and a host of former players.

Despite being a terror on the mound, Ryan has been the consummate gentleman in his retirement, something his former opponents observe now. “He was surprised,” Reid adds, “to hear other players fondly reminisce about their infield battles.”

For a full list of participating Austin theaters, visit the official film event site. View the trailer here:

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One of Texas' biggest sports franchises welcomes fans back in 2021

batter up!

The Houston Astros are pitching the return of fans to Minute Maid Park in 2021, the team announced.

“We are planning for fans to return to the ballpark for the 2021 regular season,” Anita Sehgal, senior vice president of marketing and communications, tells CultureMap. Those plans include a “limited capacity and will continue to ensure the health and safety of our employees and fans remains our priority as we finalize our plans and get closer to the start of the season,” she adds.

On Tuesday, January 26, fans received an email heralding the re-signing of coveted free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley. The email also included a link to a 2021 season flex plan, offering 20 or 40 ticket vouchers. Those vouchers are available for any home game (fans receive five free vouchers with the purchase of 40, per the email).

For those planning ahead, the Astros open the season at Minute Maid Park on April 8 versus the Oakland Athletics. Fans are also welcome to the 2021 Winter Invitational, a three-day tournament featuring six universities, including University of Central Missouri, the alma mater of Astros owner Jim Crane. The tournament runs January 29-31.

Sehgal previously told the Houston Chronicle that the team is observing protocols as part of the Houston venue task force — a group created by the Harris County Sports Authority. “Houston has done a great job of having all of these venues stay together and share best practices,” she told the Chron. “We actively participated in that, and we’ve shared our learnings, and they’ve shared theirs.”

Guidance will also come from Major League Baseball.

Photo courtesy of Round Rock Express

Popular minor league baseball team chugs out of Central Texas

Express News

Baseball fans, it’s official. The Houston Astros have inked a deal with the City of Sugar Land and Major League Baseball to move their Triple A franchise from Round Rock to Sugar Land, the team announced on November 20.

The deal means the Astros will also acquire majority ownership of the Sugar Land Skeeters, the local affiliate, by the end of the year. The club will play in the Pacific Coast League and will continue to play games at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field, according to a press release.

It will also mean that the Round Rock Express will lose its affiliation with the Astros after a 12-year partnership. In 2019, the Express posted a 84-56 record and returned to the Pacific Coast League playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“We are excited to bring Triple A baseball to Sugar Land, which is a great city with great fans,” said Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane, in a release. “We look forward to partnering with the City of Sugar Land’s great leadership to reinvest into the ballpark to make it one of the best Triple A facilities in the country.”

As for the Round Rock Express, team president Chris Almendarez issued a statement on November 20 thanking the Astros organization and promising the same game-day experience fans have come to expect at Dell Diamond, regardless of who is playing.

"We look forward to the conclusion of negotiations between Major and Minor League Baseball in the coming weeks and are excited to start our next chapter of Triple-A Baseball in Round Rock with a new affiliate,” Almendarez wrote.

Now, as a result of the Skeeters agreement, the Astros will own their Single A (Fayetteville, Arkansas), Double A (Corpus Christi), and Triple A affiliates. The agreement also means the Astros can conveniently keep their Triple A operations within the Greater Houston area.

Boasting a fervent following themselves, the Skeeters launched in 2010 as an expansion team in the Atlantic League. The club won two Atlantic League championships in 2016 and 2018. The Skeeters were the first independent league baseball team in Sugar Land and the first minor league team in the Greater Houston area since the Houston Buffaloes.

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2 Hollywood celebrities tried some of Austin’s best sushi this week, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. 2 Hollywood celebrities dined at one of Austin’s best restaurants this week. While most Austinites cozied up at home this week, these famous spouses ate at an award-winning restaurant before a screening of their new film.

2. Austin's flagship Kendra Scott store transforms into mini-Museum of Ice Cream for Valentine's Day. Here's one sweet collaboration you won't want to miss — and it launches this weekend!

3. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

4. This Tesla rental service got me from Austin to Houston, despite my best efforts. A Tesla is a smooth ride, and the UFODrive self-service process ensures a smooth trip — if you pay attention.

5. Here are the top 5 things to do in Austin this weekend. Festive (fictional) funerals, demon barbers, live podcasts, and more reasons to venture out as the weather warms up this weekend.

Documentary Turn Every Page deep-dives into historic publishing partnership

Movie Review

There have been many famous partnerships in the world, from musical ones like Hall & Oates to business ones like Bill Gates and Paul Allen. But one of the more underrated partnerships is that between authors and editors, a relationship that can be mysterious for those not well versed in the process.

The new documentary Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb, takes deep dive into the ineffable bond between Caro, author of The Power Broker and four (and counting) biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gottlieb, his longtime editor at publishing company Knopf. Caro is notorious for taking his time with his books, releasing only one about every 10 years since 1974.

The film, directed by filmmaker (and daughter of Robert) Lizzie Gottlieb, features a variety of “talking head” interviews from people as diverse as Conan O’Brien, The New Yorker editor David Remnick, and President Bill Clinton, but cedes the majority of its time to hearing from the two men themselves. Both have lived extraordinary lives, but – despite their strong connection – in very different ways.

It would be fair to call Caro “obsessive,” as his career has focused on hefty non-fiction tomes devoted to just two men. The Power Broker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, 1,300+ page book about urban planner Robert Moses, goes into great detail about how Moses shaped the landscape of New York City, and not always for the better. He has also published four volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, all detailing Johnson’s life before he was president. The yet-to-be-published fifth volume is highly anticipated, to say the least.

In addition to the books of Caro, Gottlieb has edited books by Joseph Heller (famously providing the title number for Catch-22), John Cheever, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Bill Clinton, and many others. Astonishingly, he has also had time to write eight of his own books, serve as editor of The New Yorker, program both the New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet, and more.

Lizzie Gottlieb gives each man plenty of space to tell their own story, with perhaps a slight bias toward her father. Caro is 87 and Gottlieb is 91, yet neither shows any significant mental decline. In fact, their ability to recall the many important moments of their lives and continue to ruminate at a high level is intimidating, and a testament to their intellectualism.

Among the many amazing stories that made the cut of the film are how Gottlieb had to get Caro to cut 350,000 words – or around 700 pages – from The Power Broker just for it to be small enough to be bound, and another about how Caro, in his extensive research about LBJ, discovered just how Johnson literally stole a primary election in his first run for the Senate.

The mark of any good documentary is its ability to engage viewers who may not be intimately familiar with its central subjects. While it’s the professional lives of Caro and Gottlieb that are most notable, the film includes just enough information about their personal lives to make them into full human beings, unlocking what for many have been mysterious figures.

Turn Every Page may be most interesting to those who have read and loved Caro’s books over the past five decades, but there’s enough there to open the film wide for the uninitiated. The lives of Caro and Gottlieb are large, and the documentary provides a great glimpse into how they became that way.

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Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb is now playing in Austin at AFS Cinema.

Photo by Martha Kaplan / courtesy of Wild Surmise Productions, LLC and Sony Pictures Classics

The young author and editor in Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb.

Austin arcade plans a trailer park murder, and it's your job to solve the mystery

Is this a game to you?

We would say there’s been a murder at the arcade, but it hasn’t happened yet. Pinballz, an arcade, bar, restaurant, and overall gathering place for Austin nerds, is planning a crime for one guest to commit at its Lake Creek location on February 9, and many others will be implicated. Guests will gather in character for a sit-down Southern meal, learn about the crime, tease out the clues, and eventually apprehend one of their own in “Trailer Park Tragedy,” a murder mystery dinner game.

Dinner is a form of theater in itself, bringing together a cast of southern classics: barbecue brisket and ribs, charro beans, corn bread, potato salad, house salad, and Texas toast. This trailer park is vegetarian friendly, with black bean burgers available to swap out. A recent Halloween event featured “feetloaf” and spider sliders.

“Last Valentine's Day we did a really fun murder at a wedding,” says food and beverage manager Mitch Alloway. “And we kind of wanted to go a different direction with Valentine's Day [this year] … We thought this would be more fun and spunky and goofy. We decided to go trailer park status with a ‘PBR-sponsored event,’ basically. It's going to be barbecue; it’s going to be some fun cocktails … and it'll be a fun time.”

A downloadable game book of the same name and similar details appears in game company Night of Mystery’s catalog, but Pinballz is taking the game to the next level, allowing up to 60 guests and ensuring that everyone has a unique character; not so easy at a friend’s house, but no big deal for the Pinballz staff member who will be hosting the game.

Although it’s a little different than the role-playing games patrons may be used to during the bar’s weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions — since there is a prescribed series of events and a place to land at the end of the game — this event also gives visitors a chance to get into character and even costume.

“We get a good 80 percent diehard fan base that come in and they deck out, they dress up; They really get into their characters,” says Alloway. “And then there's usually that 15-20 percent that … it's their first time coming in or they're just not sure how to really feel the vibe.”

Characters from the original game sheet include a smooth-talking motorcycle buff, a few harried mothers (including a hairstylist and a grifter), and a security guard who never made it through the police academy but still wants to brag about his position of power. The game includes a disclaimer that offending players is high on its list of priorities.

Regardless of crime solving or method acting prowess, this kind of event exists to get people out of their shells and social circles. With a goal to work on, it’s a rare opportunity in a growing city to connect with others on a night out with none of the herculean sense of initiative it otherwise takes. Alloway guesses that 12-16 people come to every murder mystery, having met as strangers and progressed into friendships through enjoying the event together.

Pinballz, in addition to flooding the senses in the way only an arcade can, is a believer in this kind of night out and puts special effort into planning more throughout the year. There are murder mysteries about once a quarter, and starting at this event, each location will be staggering its mysteries. After the Lake Creek trailer park mystery, Pinballz Kingdom in Buda is hosting a Mardi Gras-themed mystery (February 23), and the original in North Austin is planning an '80s prom theme for April.

“We don't like to drench our calendars with these, because it does take time to plan, coordinate, organize — and we want to make sure that it's not something [that happens] every single week and then it takes away the creative aspect that our team members get involved [in],” says Alloway.

Aside from regularly scheduled murders and D&D adventures (spiced up with dice rolls to find out what $8 drink a patron will receive), the bars are also embarking on more comedy nights, and have started a popular live wrestling series. The chain also organizes whiskey tastings and tournaments for widely-played video games like Street Fighter and Super Smash Brothers.

“We are a very eclectic group of nerds,” says Alloway. “I'm a nerd for food and beverage, and events. We have some nerds that are for drama. We have some people that are nerds for Pokemon. We're basically a massive mob of nerds that have decided how we want to create this venue of like-minded people … where we can kind of take our passions and bring it into one weird unique setting.”

Pinballz will host “Trailer Park Tragedy” at its Lake Creek location (13729 Research Boulevard) on February 9 at 7 pm. Tickets ($35) for the 18-and-up event are available at pinballz.com.