I got to interview Randy Johnson once. Not alone, but with a bunch of writers in Tucson after a spring game wherein the big lefty was rocked beyond all belief. That was probably back around 1998, and Johnson was not so much surly as he was weary of answering the same stupid questions over and over. At least that is how it looked to me.
In fact, after, one of the local writers told me that Johnson would probably take an off road car out into the desert to think the performance out of his system, and that sounded right to me.
I was also in attendance in in 1999 when Johnson matched up at the then BOB against the Cardinals and Jose Jimenez. Actually that was part of the SABR convention of the year, so there was around 500 of us who witnessed a no-hitter, but it was oddly tossed by Jimenez, not Johnson.
Typical for a young hard thrower, Johnson started in Montreal with promise, and then found himself in Seattle where the lefty really established himself, then moving to Arizona which is where I encountered him as noted above, and then briefly with the Yankees, then back to Arizona, and finally San Francisco. Which was about right as Johnson is a bay area homeboy, and finishing such an illustrious career just made sense at ATT.
Over his 22 seasons Johnson won 303 games, whiffed 4875, and won five Cy Youngs. He also led the league in whiffs per nine innings, walks per nine innings, home runs per nine innings, batters hit per nine innings at various times, and pitched on ten All Star teams and won 20 games three times.
And, since it is January, the month where HOF elections are annually announced, Johnson certainly assembled a career that should be a no-question first ballot entry to Cooperstown.
I had heard over the years that Johnson could be aloof with the press, and even surly. But, my read, especially after that spring training is that he is a bright guy, but also more introspective, and willing to think about what happened and how to adjust as opposed to answering for the millionth time, "what happened out there today Randy?" His impatience with stupid questions might have been interpreted as indignance, but I suspect the subtext was "Can't you ask me something a little more substantive than that?"
One of the keys of Johnson's success was indeed that he learned to pitch, not just throw, and that again reinforces my notion that Johnson was a bright guy. And, this season it was fun to score a couple of his games and actually watch the Unit set up hitters with offspeed pitches and nibbling at corners before putting them away with a fastball that still clocked in the low 90's despite Johnsons' age and perennially bad back.
In fact, it was that back that kept me from having the guy on my fantasy teams over the year, for I was always sure that back would go out, or his arm would fall off as a member of one of my squads. Hence, I never did get to take advantage of that dominance.
I had hoped that I could score Johnson's 300th win, but alas, it was not to be. Still, I got more than my share of watching and enjoying the Big Unit over that wonderful 22-year run.
Thanks a lot Randy. I appreciate all the memories. I am sure we all do.