MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–Watching Randy Johnson pitch is always a treat. The 6-foot-10 lefty is an imposing figure on the mound, and staring at him from the batter’s box has to be an intimidating experience.
But watching the Big Unit pitch his perfect game May 18 was truly something special. Johnson’s performance will go down as one of the greatest pitching feats ever, especially considering his age of 40.
In fact, Johnson became the oldest player in major league history to throw a perfect game when he retired all 27 Atlanta Braves batters he faced. He also became only the sixth player in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues.
It was only the 17th time a pitcher has tossed a perfect game in major league history. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how rare the achievement is.
“A game like this was pretty special,” Johnson said in an AP story. “It doesn’t come along very often.”
A lock for baseball’s Hall of Fame, Johnson’s perfect game is a nice exclamation point to a superb career. He has won 234 games and has a career ERA of 3.09. His 3,952 strikeouts place him fourth on the all-time list, behind only Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and Roger Clemens.
He has also won five Cy Young Awards and is a World Series MVP.
But despite all the honors, all the accomplishments and all the accolades, Johnson remains humble about his place in baseball history.
Johnson wrote the forward to Dave Dravecky’s little book, “Play Ball.” In it, Johnson talks about his love for the game’s history. His basement isn’t adorned with any of his Cy Young awards, but with his collection of autographs from players like Cy Young himself, Lefty Grove, Kid Nichols and Babe Ruth.
“I love the history of the game, and I enjoy learning what those old-timers have done,” Johnson wrote. “These days, I’m greatly humbled by what I’ve been able to accomplish between the lines.”
Johnson goes on to give God the credit for his ability and for his success on the baseball field.
“With each passing season, I’m realizing that any history I’m making has not been done by my own strength,” Johnson wrote. “The Lord has taught me to accept the peaks and valleys and try to do my best — to get the most out of my ability. I understand that the Lord is in charge of our destiny and that the blessings I’ve been given could come and go at any moment. That knowledge has helped me mentally prepare to be the best pitcher I can be.”
The peaks far outnumber the valleys in Johnson’s career, and Tuesday’s game was certainly the pinnacle for him. We saw one of baseball’s best achieve perfection.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports, online at www.bpsports.net. Visit his web log at www.thewinningspirit.blogspot.com.