Two years ago, Randy Johnson threw the last MLB no-hit contest to date. 40 year-old’s perfect game also makes him the oldest pitcher to twirl one. I sometimes wonder how long it will be before we see another, what if we never saw another one. Just what if… can you imagine how that would impact the game of baseball and it’s historical perspective? You never know, throwing a perfect game could become like hitting .400. Once somewhat common and then, as if taken from us on some dark night, gone forever.
I remember, having lived in Phoenix, Arizona during those exciting years, the buzz around the city when Randy was starting. The whole town was on fire. “You going to the park tonight?” “You got tickets?!?!” “What will he do tonight?” There was a time in Phoenix when the house would pack no matter what day of the week or time of day that Randy was twirling.
One of my favorite things about baseball are these moments where you see something and wonder if that’s been done this decade, and you doubt it. This century? Maybe not. Ever? Lots of those memories for me were Randy Johnson starts. One such game I’ll never forget was his 8-2-5 triple play… Randy Johnson pitching to Mark McGwire, back when he was MARK MCGWIRE, and Mac pop-flys to center. Finley catches and runner tags at third, throw’s there at home, while the runner who tagged at second is nabbed by inches for the 8-2-5 triple play!
After the game a reporter asks Randy if he planned that! Randy says, “Yeah, anytime you have no outs, bases loaded, and Mark McGwire at the plate… as a pitcher you’re thinking, ‘OK, fly to center, throw to home, out at third is what I’m shooting for.’” laughs, “No, I was just kinda hoping for less than 4.”
I was there when he struck out 20 Reds! Only those of us lucky enough to be diehards from 1999-2002 got to see Randy at his peak. You see a more detailed picture of the game and can see the true effect of a pitcher on that game when you’re there. Randy Johnson was a firebolt back then and we all showered him with courage. Each pitch, if you sat in the perfect acoustical spot in the park, you ‘d hear the crowd rumbling with anticipation and winding up a gear with the lift of the leg, and finnaly launching in all out exuberance and react! Disasterous SLAP and a rumbling warning of doom, or WIFF and the joyous victory, STRIKE ONE!
The 10-time All Star ranks third in career Strikouts behind Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, 37th in wins, with a career 3.07 ERA. When it comes to quotes there’s one Randy Johnson quote that stands apart from the rest. He once said, “When you can throw 97 miles an hour and put the ball over the plate anytime you want, it’s fun.” I imagine he’s correct, but I know it was fun to watch.