It is with some sadness, but great respect that I acknowledge the retirement of Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson from Major League Baseball. Johnson pitched for 22 years in the big leagues for the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. He was well known, not only as one for the most feared pitchers in baseball history, but also for his frequently grumpy persona that contributed to his intimidation factor. Standing 6'10" tall, it was almost like Johnson was practically reaching out half-way to home plate. I cannot recall all of Johnson's stats, but among the most important -- he finished with 303 victories, a no-hitter, five Cy Young awards...second only to Roger Clemens' seven (which now is tainted)...and he was second all-time in strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan. He is seen as somewhere between the first to third best left-handed pitcher of all-time, and probably top-ten overall.
Johnson started out as a wild man who couldn't locate any of his pitches with any regularity. But, once he came to Seattle, he developed what he called "Mr Snappy"...a wicked slider that broke radically in and down on right-handed hitters and away from left-handed hitters. When he was "on," it was unhittable. This 85+mph pitch, along with an up to 100 mph fastball, and the menacing glare made Johnson the most feared pitcher for a generation. Johnson carried the Mariners pitching throughout the 90s, and he, along with Curt Schilling, led the D-backs to the 2001 World Series over the Yankees -- a terrific moment in baseball history. During that series, Johnson was 3-0, and pitched in relief in the decisive game 7. He finished last year with the Giants, but at age 46 (which is Methuselah for MLB pitchers), his back was wearing out, and he had other health concerns related to 22 years of pitching. His longevity was very impressive for a man so tall, and his toughness...some would say meanness...was legendary. I hope he enjoys his retirement, but there will probably not be another pitcher like him for a long time...if ever. Blessings,