Randy Johnson announced his retirement last week, marking the end of the career of one my favorite pitchers to play against. After 22 MLB seasons and 303 victories, the 6’10” fireballing lefty decided he didn’t have anything left to prove, and that it was time to start his time clock towards his election to the Hall of Fame.
The announcement was bitter sweet for me. I’ve been watching Johnson pitch since 1983 when he was a freshman at USC. As a local high school kid I used to go out to Dedaux field to watch great baseball, and dream about possibly playing collegiate baseball myself. Little did I know that I would play against Johnson just 2 years later in the Florida State League (A ball), after he was drafted by the Expos, and I by the Phillies. I would get to watch him pitch from the opposing dugout, usually charting the K’s he was posting against my teammates, for the next 20 years.
He was by far the most intimidating left-handed pitcher I ever had the pleasure to witness pitch. As an opponent I was left in awe watching him dominate our hitters live, and I would stop whatever I was doing to watch him on TV when not playing against hm.
So I am sad to see his career end, but glad to see it happen on his terms, and with out a heavy cloud of doubt and suspicion surrounding him. Only time will tell, and we may never know, if he was tainted by the steroid era at all. For now, the Big Unit retires with 5 Cy Young Awards, the most strikeouts ever recorded for a left hander and the second most recorded by any pitcher (just behind his mentor Nolan Ryan), over 300 victories, and a pending first ballot invitation to join the immortals of the game.
Thanks, Randy, for reigniting within me that pure joy of watching baseball, and for being the type of player that was so good that people stopped what they were doing to watch you perform your craft every time you took the field. Congratulations on an amazing career.