Monday, November 3, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #154 RANDY JOHNSON

STRUCK FEAR INTO A LOT OF HITTERS' HEARTS.



STARTED PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER IN '93.



DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Randy Johnson was responsible for untold numbers of hitters, especially lefties, planning a day off when he pitched. You faced Big Unit at a big risk of lowering your batting average and at great fear of taking one in the ear. Gangly of build at 6-10 and possessing a fastball in the triple-digits delivered from three-quarters, Johnson was one of the game's most intimidating and successful pitchers. He went 303-166 with a 3.29 ERA in his 22-year career, and his 4,875 strikeouts are second all-time and most among left-handers. A winner of five Cy Young Awards, he'll take his place in Cooperstown in 2015.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • In September '92, with Johnson plagued by inconsistency and lack of control, he met with #107 Nolan Ryan and Rangers pitching coach Tom House out of desperation. Johnson was in the process of leading the majors in walks for a third consecutive season. Among various suggestions, Ryan recommended that Johnson land on the ball of his foot instead of his heel. Something clicked. On Sept. 27, facing Ryan and the Rangers, Unit went eight innings for the Mariners, striking out 18 while walking only four. He threw 160 pitches in the 3-2 loss and never walked more than 99 batters in a season the rest of his career.

DEFINING SEASON

  • In '02 with the Diamondbacks, Johnson did it all, leading the NL in victories (24), ERA (2.32) and strikeouts (334). He won his fourth consecutive Cy Young and his 24-5 record was good for an .825 winning percentage, which also led the NL. 

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. With the '89 Expos in contention, they dealt him and two other pitchers to the Mariners in May for #82 Mark Langston and a player to be named.
  2. From '99-'02, his first four seasons in Arizona, he averaged 354 strikeouts and only 72 walks.
  3. In a spring training game in '01, a Big Unit fastball killed a pigeon, which flew into the ball after he delivered. The pigeon crashed on the field amid a blanket of feathers.
  4. Johnson and #10 Curt Schilling formed a nearly unbeatable 1-2 for the Diamondbacks in '01. With Unit winning 21 games and Schilling 22, they led Arizona to the World Series and shared the Series MVP award.
  5. Got his nickname after running into #183 Tim Raines while with the Expos, prompting a teammate to remark, "You're a big unit.''

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