PHOENIX – At 6-foot-10, Randy Johnson stood on the mound and looked down on batters, an intimidating presence before he even threw the ball.
And when he let it fly, his talent matched his imposing stature.
With a menacing fastball and devastating slider, “The Big Unit” had a career that rivaled any other left-handed pitcher who played the game. There is a long list of statistics to back that up, and he seems a shoo-in as a first-ballot selection when the new Hall of Fame class is announced Tuesday.
His best seasons came with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won four consecutive Cy Young awards – he had a total of five – and his only World Series championship. Every start was a display of searing intensity.
“We knew that every fifth day we were going to get one of the most competitive efforts in the history of the game,” said Bob Brenly, his manager for most of his time in Arizona. “He pitched every game like it was the most important of his life.”
Since his retirement in 2009, Johnson has mostly detached himself from baseball, concentrating on his love of photography, traveling the world, shooting pictures of his many rock musician friends, meeting with soldiers on USO tours to Kuwait, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
Johnson pitched 22 seasons with Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, the New York Yankees and San Francisco, compiling a 303-166 career record.
He led his league in strikeouts nine times, third most in baseball history behind Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan. His average of 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings ranks first among all pitchers.
Johnson had six seasons of at least 300 strikeouts, tied with Ryan for the most.
In 2004, at the age of 40, he became the oldest person to throw a perfect game.
Johnson has said he’s not the same intense person. He stepped away from baseball and enjoyed the easing of internal pressure he always put on himself.
“I didn’t have any problems retiring because I felt like I did what I wanted to do. I deserved to walk away,” Johnson said.
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