September 10th, 2015 marks the 52nd birthday of one of baseball’s all-time greats, Randy Johnson. The 2015 Hall of Fame inductee’s achievements read like a laundry list of dominance; he’s a 10-time all-star, has five Cy Youngs (including at least one in each league), 300 wins, and nearly 5,000 strikeouts, and received two franchises’ highest honor.
The Big Unit is known for his quirkiness as a person as well. He’s one of the tallest players in baseball history at 6-foot-10, had a slider nicknamed “Mr. Snappy” and has retired to a career as a professional photographer with an emphasis on rock concerts.
With that said, here are three awesome, quirky and generally notable moments from his storied career:
1. The 1995 ALDS
Johnson’s career started slow with the Expos and Mariners, but he turned into a star in 1993 at age 29 that saw him finish second in the AL Cy Young voting. He captured his first Cy Young in 1995, and pitched the Mariners into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history with a three-hitter against the Angels in a one-game playoff for the AL West. In the following five-game series against the Yankees, he was unavailable for the first two games, and the Mariners fell behind 2-0. He then beat the Yankees in Game 3, and pulled a Madison Bumgarner in Game 5, coming on in relief on one day’s rest to pitch innings 9 through 11 to set up The ’95 Slide, still the most significant moment in Mariners’ franchise history.
2. Beaning the Bird
In a moment that has donned “sports’ craziest moments” lists for over a decade, Johnson did something no one has seen before
or since: he killed a dove with his fastball. It happened in spring training 2001, with the Unit at the height of his career with the Diamondbacks. He threw a heater to Giants’ outfielder Calvin Murphy and the unlucky bird flew in and exploded on impact. According to MLB.com, fans ask Johnson more about this incident than anything else in his storied career.
3. Messing with Krukie
Back in 1993, Johnson was a relative unknown making his first All-Star Game appearance. John Kruk was in his third consecutive Midsummer Classic and coming off a career year where he hit .323. Against Johnson though, Kruk couldn’t have been more intimidated.
Johnson threw the first pitch about five feet over Kruk’s head, terrifying him and setting the tone for the remainder of the at-bat. At the height of his powers, the Phillies’ first baseman could do nothing but flail wildly. As Kruk said after the game, “When I stepped in the box, I said ‘all I want to do is make contact.’ After the first pitch, I said ‘all I want to do is live.'”
Have any other favorite Big Unit moments? Share them in the comments.