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Randall David "Randy" Johnson (born September 10, 1963 in Walnut Creek, California), nicknamed "The Big Unit", is an American former left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played from 1988 to 2009 for six teams, primarily the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks. His 303 career victories rank as the fifth-most by a lefthander in major league history, while his 4,875 strikeouts place him second all-time behind Nolan Ryan and are the most by a lefthander. He holds five of the seven highest single-season strikeout totals by a lefthander in modern history. Johnson won the Cy Young Award five times, second only to Roger Clemens' seven; he is one of two pitchers to win the award four consecutive times (1999-2002), and in 1999 – along with Pedro Martínez – joined Gaylord Perry in the rare feat of winning the award in both the American and National Leagues. He is also one of five pitchers to hurl no-hitters in both leagues; with the second no-hitter, in 2004, he became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game.

One of the tallest players in major league history at 6 feet 10 inches (2.08m) and a ten-time All-Star, Johnson was celebrated for having one of the most dominant fastballs in the game; he regularly approached – and occasionally exceeded – 100 mph (161 km/h) during his prime. He also threw a hard, biting slider. After struggling early in his career, gaining only 64 wins by his 30th birthday, he went on to lead his league in strikeouts nine times, and in earned run average, winning percentage and complete games four times each. Johnson was named co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, leading the Diamondbacks to a championship in only their fourth year of play. His .646 career winning percentage ranks sixth among lefthanders with at least 200 decisions, and among southpaws he ranks eighth in games started (603) and ninth in innings pitched (4,135⅓). He also finished his career first in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.67), third in hit batsmen (188), and tenth in fewest hits allowed per nine innings pitched (7.24). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, his first year of eligibility.


Perhaps the most infamous fact about Randy Johnson is his nickname, "The Big Unit". During batting practice in 1988, the 6'10" Johnson, then with the Montreal Expos, collided head-first with outfielder Tim Raines, prompting his teammate to exclaim, "You're a big unit!" The nickname has stuck ever since. Johnson's nickname was ranked No. 98 overall in the book "Glow Pucks & 10-Cent Beer: The 101 Worst Ideas in Sports History" by author Greg Wyshynski.

Early life

By the time he entered Livermore High School, he was a star in baseball and basketball. In 1982, as a senior, he fanned 121 batters in 66 innings of work. He threw a perfect game in his last high school start. In hoops he led the East Bay Athletic League in scoring twice.

He continued to star at the University of Southern California, though in 1985 he led the nation in walks with 104 in 118 innings. Randy's brother who also played baseball all of his life until he was injured in a plane accident that killed him was Casey Farmer.


Randy Johnson during his second stint with the D-Backs.

Since entering the majors, he has been among the most feared pitchers in the game, attributing to his blazing fastball, intimidating appearance (height, wild mullet hairstyle and moustache), and his angry, energetic demeanor on the mound. Part of his early intimidation factor came from his dramatic lack of control; after being traded away to the Seattle Mariners by the Montreal Expos, Johnson led the AL in walks for three consecutive seasons (1990-92), and in hit batsmen in 1992 and 1993. In July 1991, facing the Brewers, the erratic Johnson allowed four runs on 1 hit, thanks to 10 walks in 4 innings. A month later, a 9th-inning single cost him a no-hitter against Oakland. Johnson suffered another 10-walk, 4-inning start in 1992.

But his untapped talent was volcanic; in 1990, Johnson became the first lefthander to strike out Wade Boggs three times in one game, and a no-hitter against Detroit attested to his potential. Johnson credits a session with Nolan Ryan late in the 1992 season with helping him take his career to the next level; Ryan has said that he appreciated Johnson's talent and did not want to see him take as long to figure certain things out as he had taken. He recommended a slight change in his delivery; Before the meeting, Johnson would land on the heel of his foot after delivering a pitch, and as such, he usually landed offline from home plate. Ryan suggested that he landed on the ball of his foot, and almost immediately, he began finding the plate more consistently. [1] Late in 1992, and after the Ryan meeting, Johnson struck out 18 against Texas, tying the AL record. In May 1993, Johnson again lost a no-hitter to a 9th-inning single; again, the opponent was the Oakland A's.

Johnson broke out in 1993 with a 19-8 record, 3.24 ERA and his first of six 300-plus strikeout seasons (308). He also recorded his 1,000th career strikeout against Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch; amusingly, Johnson was one foot taller than the Twins' second baseman.

After pitching well in the strike-shortened 1994, Johnson won the American League Cy Young Award in 1995 with an 18-2 record, 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts. His .900 winning percentage was the second highest in AL history, behind Johnny Allen, who had gone 15-1 for the Cleveland Indians in 1937. Johnson, who also finished 2nd in the 1993 and 1997 AL voting, and third in 1994, remains the only Seattle Mariners pitcher to win the award.

Johnson capped the Mariners' late season comeback by pitching a 3-hitter in the AL West's one-game playoff, crushing the California Angels' hopes with 12 strikeouts. Thus unable to start in the 5-game ALDS series against the Yankees until the third game, Johnson watched as New York took a 2-0 lead. Johnson beat the Yankees in Game 3 with 10 strikeouts in 7 innings. When the series went the distance, Johnson made a dramatic relief appearance in Game 5 on one day's rest. Entering a 4-4 game in the ninth inning, Johnson pitched the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings. He allowed 1 run, struck out 6, and held on for the series-ending win in Seattle's dramatic comeback.

However, this gutsy week of October 1995 pitching would eventually be forgotten, as Johnson posted an 0-6 playoff record in his next four playoff series, each of which his teams lost. The six consecutive postseason losses tied a major league record, as Johnson began to develop a reputation as a poor "big game pitcher."

Johnson was sidelined throughout much of the 1996 season with a back injury, but he rebounded in 1997 with a 20-4 record, 291 strikeouts, and a 2.28 ERA (his personal best). Between May 1994 and October 1997, Johnson had gone 53-9, including a 16-0 streak that fell one short of the AL record. Johnson had two 19-strikeout starts in 1997, on June 24 and August 8.

In June 1997, Oakland A's slugger Mark McGwire's swing connected perfectly with a Randy Johnson fastball; the result was a rocketing home run into the upper deck of the Kingdome, later estimated at 538 feet. The image of the home run, complete with Johnson swiveling and mouthing the word "Wow," was replayed repeatedly on sports highlight shows. Johnson had 19 strikeouts in the game but lost, 4-1.

1998 was a tale of two seasons for Johnson. He was due to become a free agent at the end of the season but the Mariners' strapped budget prevented them from making any serious offers for a contract extension during the season. Concerns over whether and when he might be traded likely played a role in Johnson's 9-10 record with the Mariners during the early part of that season. His 4.33 ERA during that stretch was his highest in a decade.

Johnson's season turned around on July 31, 1998 when a deadline trade sent him to the Houston Astros for Freddy García, Carlos Guillén, and a player to be named later (eventually John Halama). Houston was in the thick of a pennant race and Johnson's strong arm anchored their rotation. In 11 starts, he went 10-1 with a sparkling 1.28 ERA, leading the Astros to the playoffs. Despite only pitching for a third of a season in the National League, Johnson finished 7th in National League Cy Young Award voting. Johnsaon led the major league in strikeouts in 1998, but was not a league leader in either league.

Johnson signed one of the largest contracts to that date in the off-season, inking a $53-million, four-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks; a second-year and relatively inexperienced franchise. It is arguably the best free agent signing in baseball history, as Johnson won the NL Cy Young Award in each of the four seasons covered by the contract.

The deal paid immediate dividends for Arizona, as Johnson led the team to the playoffs that year on the strength of a 17-9 record and 2.48 ERA, enough to earn him his second Cy Young Award. Johnson's numbers could have been even more impressive; at one point in the season, Arizona failed to score a run in four consecutive Johnson starts, including a pair of 1-0 losses. Johnson's pitching line in the four starts: 32 innings, 19 hits, 54 strikeouts, a 1.40 ERA... and an 0-4 won-lost record.

The following season, Arizona acquired Curt Schilling from the Philadelphia Phillies, giving Arizona the most feared power pitching duo in the sport.

Johnson and Schilling carried the Arizona Diamondbacks to their first franchise World Series appearance and victory in 2001 against the powerful New York Yankees, in only their fourth year of existence. The two pitchers shared the World Series MVP Award and were named Sports Illustrated magazine's 2001 "Sportsmen of the Year".

Johnson's performance was particularly dominating, pitching 7 innings for the victory in Game 6 and then coming on in relief-- on zero days' rest-- to pick up the win in Game 7. Johnson had already pitched a shutout in Game 2, thus tying the record with three wins in one World Series, and erasing many of the doubts regarding his postseason ineffectiveness.

Johnson's Game 7 relief appearance was his second of the 2001 season; on July 18, a game against the Padres was delayed by two electrical explosions in Qualcomm Stadium. When the game resumed the following day (July 19), Johnson stepped in as the new pitcher and racked up 16 strikeouts in 7 innings, technically setting the record for the most strikeouts in a relief stint.

In 2002, Johnson won his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award. Oddly, he also became the only pitcher in baseball history to post a 24-5 record. His 24 wins is tied for highest in NL subsequent to 1972, when Steve Cqarlton of the Phillies won 27 games. [2]

Johnson spent the majority of the 2003 season on the disabled list and wasn't effective in the few injury-hampered starts he did make. One thing he did accomplish that year was hit his first career home run in a September 19, 2003 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It is the only home run to date for Johnson, a career .128 hitter.

On May 18, 2004, Johnson became only the 17th player to throw a perfect game, and at 40 years of age, the oldest. Johnson had 13 strikeouts on his way to a 2-0 defeat of the Atlanta Braves. The perfect game made him the fifth pitcher in Major League history (after Cy Young, Jim Bunning, Nolan Ryan and Hideo Nomo) to pitch a no-hitter in both leagues. It also gave him the longest span of any pitcher between no-hitters: 14 years (although the span between Nolan Ryan's first and seventh no hitters was 18 years).

On June 29, 2004, Johnson struck out Jeff Cirillo of the San Diego Padres to become only the 4th person to reach 4,000 strikeouts in a career. On September 15, 2004, Johnson struck out his 4,137th batter (Colorado's Vinny Castilla) to move into third place on the career strikeout list, and break Steve Carlton's record amongst left-handers.

He finished the 2004 season with a 16-14 record, but had a far better season than his won-lost total indicated; the D-Backs scored two or fewer runs in 17 of his 35 starts that season. Johnson led the major leagues in strikeouts (with 290). In the games where Arizona scored three or more runs, Johnson was 13-2. As his team only won 51 games that year, his ratio of winning 31.3% of his team's games was the highest for any starting pitcher since Steve Carlton in 1972 (who won 27 of the Phillies 59 wins for an all-time record ratio of 45.8%). He finished second to Roger Clemens in that year's Cy Young Award balloting. Johnson was unhappy with the D-Backs offense, and demanded a trade.

On January 6, 2005, Johnson was traded to the New York Yankees for pitcher Javier Vazquez, pitcher Brad Halsey, catcher Dioner Navarro and $9 million. Johnson pitched Opening Day for the Yankees on April 3, 2005 against the Boston Red Sox. Johnson was inconsistent through 2005, allowing 32 home runs to hitters; however, he regained his dominance in late 2005. He was 5-0 against the Yankees' division rival Red Sox and finished the season 17-8 with a 3.79 ERA, second in the AL with 211 strikeouts.

Johnson was a disappointment in Game 3 of the 2005 Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, allowing 5 runs on 2 home runs in 3 innings. In Game 5 in L.A., Johnson made an effective relief appearance after Mike Mussina gave up 5 runs and 6 hits to give the Angels a 5-2 lead, but the Yankees were unable to come back in the series. It was Johnson's first relief appearance since Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. After an inconclusive year in pinstripes, New York fans hoped that Johnson would return to his dominant style in his second Yankee season.

Johnson began 2006 well, but then he struggled to find form. In between some impressive performances, he allowed 5 or more runs in 7 of his first 18 starts for the season. Johnson was more effective in the second half. Johnson finished the season with a 17-11 record, a subpar 5.00 ERA with 172 strikeouts. It had been revealed at the end of the 2006 season that a herniated disc in Johnson's back had been stiffening him and it was only in his second to last start of the season that he decided to get it checked. This exposure had caused him to miss his last start of 2006. After being given an Ephidoral and a few bullpen sessions he was cleared to start in game 3 of the ALDS, however he gave up 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Return to Diamondbacks (2007–08)

File:Randy Johnson 04.jpg

Johnson pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks

On January 5, 2007, the Yankees traded Johnson back to the Diamondbacks, almost two years to the day that Arizona had traded him to New York, for a package of five young players and prospects. The Yankees' decision to trade Johnson was primarily based on his pre-season request to be traded after the passing of his brother. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was very sympathetic to Johnson's grief and agreed to trade him back to the Diamondbacks so that Johnson could be closer to his family in Phoenix.

Johnson missed most of April rehabbing his injured back, before returning on April 24, 2007. Johnson allowed six runs in 5 innings and took the loss, but struck out seven. He returned to form, and by his tenth start of the season was among the NL's top ten strikeout pitchers. But on July 3, his surgically repaired disc from the previous season was reinjured. Johnson had season-ending surgery on the same disc, this time removing it completely. Reporting that the procedure went "a little better than expected," Arizona hoped that Johnson would be ready for the 2008 season.

Johnson made his season debut on April 14, 2008 against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park eight months following his back surgery.

On June 3, 2008, Johnson struck out Mike Cameron of the Milwaukee Brewers for career strikeout number 4,673. With this strikeout Johnson surpassed Roger Clemens for the number two spot on the all-time strikeout leaders list. Johnson struck out 8 in the game but could not get the win as the Diamondbacks lost 7–1.

Johnson got his 4,700th career strikeout on July 6, 2008. He finished the season with a 11–10 record and an ERA of 3.91, recording his 100th career complete game in a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.[1]

San Francisco Giants (2009–present)

On December 26, 2008, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants for a reported $8 million, with a possible $2.5 million in performance bonuses and another $2.5 million in award bonuses. It was revealed on April 7, 2009 that Johnson would be the second starter in the San Francisco Giants starting rotation.[2][3] On June 4, 2009, Johnson became the twenty-fourth pitcher to reach 300 wins, beating the Washington Nationals, 5–1, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.[4]. He became just the sixth left-hander to achieve the 300 win milestone and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 years to do it on his first attempt, joining Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry and Tom Seaver.


Johnson in the prime of his career combined a blazing 96-101 mph fastball, in his later years his fastball with the Yankees has dipped to 88-94, and a slider which dives down and in at the last second away from lefties and into righties. When he is in command of his slider, it is considered by many to be one of the best ever thrown. Due to his height, long arms, and side-arm pitching, the release point of his pitches looks like it is coming from the first base side of the mound, deceiving left-handed hitters especially. He has often dominated lefties with his slider by atypical height and release point; it feels as though he's pitching from ten feet closer than he actually is. In a tongue-in-cheek TV sports ad, John Kruk referred to Johnson's best pitch as "Mr. Snappy".


  • 10-time All-Star (1990, 1993-95, 1997, 1999, 2000-02, 2004)
  • World Series MVP Award (with Curt Schilling, 2001) with Arizona Diamondbacks
  • American League Cy Young Award winner (1995)
  • National League Cy Young Award winner (1999, 2000-02)
  • Finished 6th in American League MVP voting (1995)
  • In 2001, he became the first pitcher to record 3 wins in a single World Series since Mickey Lolich, and the 13th overall
  • Finished 7th in National League MVP voting (2002)
  • Led the league in ERA four times (1995, 1999, 2001, 2002)
  • Led the league in wins (2002)
  • Led the league in Strikeouts (1992-95, 1999, 2000-02, 2004) (also led major leagues in strikeouts in 1998 while pitching in both leagues)
  • Won Triple Crown (led league in wins, ERA and strikeouts) (2002)
  • On August 23, 2002, struck out 3 batters on 9 pitches in the 6th inning of a 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. Became the 21st National League pitcher and the 30th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning.
  • Struck out 19 batters in a game (June 24, 1997 against Oakland Athletics; August 8, 1997 against Chicago White Sox)
  • Struck out 20 batters in a game on May 8, 2001 against Cincinnati Reds; Johnson recorded all 20 strikeouts in the first nine innings, but because the game went into extra innings, it was not categorized by MLB as an "official" 20-strikeout game (Tom Cheney's 16-inning, 21-strikeout game is also listed separately). Baseball has since reversed itself on the game, and now lists Johnson with Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood as 20-K pitchers.
  • 4,544 career strikeouts (3rd overall)
  • 10.86 strikeouts per 9 innings over career (1st overall)
  • Career 280-147 record
  • Threw no-hitter: June 2, 1990 (Seattle Mariners 2, Detroit Tigers 0)
  • Threw perfect game: May 18, 2004 (Arizona Diamondbacks 2, Atlanta Braves 0) and became the oldest player to accomplish it, at age 40.
  • In 2005, The Sporting News published an update of their 1999 book Baseball's 100 Greatest Players. Johnson did not make the original edition, but for the 2005 update, with his career totals considerably higher and his 2001 World Championship season taken into account, he was ranked at Number 60.
  • Holds an MLB record with 5 consecutive 300-strikeout seasons (1996-2002)

Annual salaries

  • 1989 Montreal Expos $70,000
  • 1990 Seattle Mariners $150,000
  • 1991 Seattle Mariners $350,000
  • 1992 Seattle Mariners $1,392,500
  • 1993 Seattle Mariners $2,625,000
  • 1994 Seattle Mariners $3,325,000
  • 1995 Seattle Mariners $4,675,000
  • 1996 Seattle Mariners $6,025,000
  • 1997 Seattle Mariners $6,325,000
  • 1998 Seattle Mariners/Houston Astros $6,000,000
  • 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks $9,700,000
  • 2000 Arizona Diamondbacks $13,350,000
  • 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks $13,350,000
  • 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks $13,350,000
  • 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks $15,000,000
  • 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks $16,000,000
  • 2005 New York Yankees $16,000,000
  • 2006 New York Yankees $16,000,000


Unusual incidents

Bird beanball

File:Bird Beanball.png

"Bird Beanball"

In a freak accident on March 24, 2001, during the 7th inning of a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants, Johnson threw a fastball that struck and killed a dove. After being struck by the pitch, the bird went over catcher Rod Barajas' head and landed amid a "sea of feathers." The official call was "no pitch."[3] This was only the second time in professional baseball that a thrown baseball had killed a bird: the first one was by New York Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield during a warm-up session in 1983. The Diamondbacks went on to win the game 10-5 without further incident.

Altercation with cameraman

On January 10, 2005, Johnson noticed a CBS New York cameramen had been shooting footage of him leaving a building after taking his physical to finalize the trade that brought him to the New York Yankees. Johnson pushed WCBS-TV cameraman Vinny Everett. Everett replied with the sarcastic comment, "Welcome to New York!" The next day, Johnson apologized for the incident at his press conference that made the trade official. Johnson made the front page of the New York Daily News and the New York Post on January 11. He also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on the day of his introduction to the Yankees.

Off the field

Johnson guest starred in an episode of The Simpsons, which aired on March 19, 2006. In the episode, Johnson promotes left-handed teddy bears and is met by Ned Flanders at a left-handers convention.

On April 18, 2006, he was named "2nd unsexiest male celebrity" by the Boston-based alternative weekly The Phoenix, behind Gilbert Gottfried.[4]

Personal life

Johnson has four children with his wife Lisa: Samantha (born 28 December 1994), Tanner (born 5 April 1996), Willow (born 23 April 1998), and Alexandria (born 4 December 1999).

On March 28, 2006, the New York Daily News revealed that Johnson has a 16-year-old daughter named Heather Roszell (born 4 September 1989) living in Langley, Washington. The news was made public because of a court petition he filed on 7 February 2006, seeking $97,000 in restitution for daycare costs paid to Heather's mother.

For years, Johnson sported a mullet hairstyle, although now his hair is shorter and better trimmed due to the Yankees' rules banning long hair. He also had to shave his goatee, but wore a mustache until September 7, 2006.

See also

External links

Preceded by:
David Cone
American League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Pat Hentgen
Preceded by:
Tom Glavine
National League Cy Young Award
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
Succeeded by:
Eric Gagne
Preceded by:
Derek Jeter
World Series MVP (with Curt Schilling)
Succeeded by:
Troy Glaus
Preceded by:
Derek Jeter
Babe Ruth Award (with Curt Schilling)
Succeeded by:
David Eckstein
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David Cone
Perfect game pitcher
May 18, 2004
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Warren Spahn Award
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Andy Pettitte