Historical Randy

I’ve often wondered, if you asked an Arizona Diamondbacks what their most memorable moment would be from the first 10 years of the franchise’s existence; what would they answer? I am willing to bet that the majority would list the final play of the 2001 World Series when Luis Gonzalez hit a bloop single over a drawn in Derek Jeter to score Jay Bell winning the first world championship. Others may mention March 31, 1998 when Andy Benes threw the first pitch to Jorge Fabregas as Rockies second baseman Mike Lansing took the pitch as a ball. For Gylene Hoyle I would guess she would respond with the events of July 11, 1999 when Jay Bell made her a millionaire. I’ve pondered this question quite a lot and have come to the conclusion that to me the most memorable point in Diamondbacks occurred on this date back in 2004.

The Arizona Diamondbacks arrived in Atlanta to face the Braves in a three game series. Arizona had just completed a series against the Montreal Expos where their lost three making their losing streak 5 in a row. Arizona was in the midst of a struggle that began in April when first baseman Richie Sexon’s season came into doubt with a shoulder injury. This was the first of many injuries that would plague the Diamondbacks that season and would ultimately cost manager Bob Brenly his job. On May 18 the Diamondbacks were just hoping to reverse their current fortunes. Atlanta sent pitcher Mike Hampton to the mound to face Randy Johnson. It was a cool evening and at the beginning of the game it didn’t really feel that special. The Diamondbacks line-up consisted of Chad Tracy at third, Matt Kata at second, Luis Gonzalez in left field, Shea Hillenbrand at first, Steve Finley in center field, Danny Bautista in right field, Alex Cintron at shortstop, Robbie Hammock catching, and Randy Johnson on the mound. That line-up was nothing really earth shattering with the infield being made up of young players just beginning their careers. Finley and Gonzalez were the veteran position players trying to keep the kids in check and focused on the game. As the game progressed it was clear that Randy Johnson had brought his best game to the mound that night. Each Braves hitter that entered the batter’s box came away shaking their heads at the pitches Randy was throwing. The Big Unit struck out 13 batters which in itself was an impressive feat. Atlanta hitters realized that Johnson was going to be tough from the fact that he didn’t allow any free passes. The outs began to mount and in the ninth inning pinch hitter Eddie Perez swung at the final pitch for the third out. Randy Johnson had just thrown the first no-hitter in Arizona Diamondbacks history, Not only a no-hitter but a perfect game. He faced 27 batters and retired each one of them nearly half by strike out. Catcher Robbie Hammock leapt from behind the plate and raced to the mound where he jumped into Johnson’s arms. It was an amazing sight to behold and one I will never forget.

It is somewhat fitting then that Randy Johnson is on the mound today to face the Detroit Tigers. Now 44 years old and two back surgeries later no one expected to see another perfect game but still you just had to dream of what it would be like sitting there in person as history was being made. Randy pitched 7 strong innings and like that game in 2004 he did not allow anyone to score. He struck out 5 batters and allowed 1 walk. He left the game not to the roar of the crowd but with well deserved pats on the back and a handshake. He sat on the bench and watched as Chad Qualls and Brandon Lyon pitched the final two innings. Lyon did his best Randy Johnson impression not allowing any hits and striking out two to finish off the Tigers. Like 2004, the Diamondbacks won this game too and the fans were rewarded with a classic Randy Johnson performance. It wasn’t perfect but this game was vintage Big Unit and you can’t ask for much more than that.

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