During his 22-year career as a major league baseball player, Randy Johnson regularly stood on a pitcher’s mound, alone, as tens of thousands of fans watched his every move. He pitched in numerous high-pressure situations, from the deciding game of a World Series to a perfect game. Yet, never was he as nervous as on July 26, when he stood in front of an estimated 50,000 onlookers in Cooperstown, New York. This time, he was not throwing a baseball but talking to the crowd, delivering his acceptance speech after being inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It’s extremely emotional talking about things I care about a lot,” Johnson later said. “So I got caught up with emotions. Different emotions than what I would pitch with, completely different. But that’s good, because I’m still an emotional person.”
While Johnson might have been nervous about his speech, he effectively conveyed his gratitude to the many individuals who helped him succeed. He said, “There’s a lot of people on this journey that I’ve had for 22 years in the major leagues. That’s what it’s about for me today – giving the recognition that they so rightly deserve.”
Johnson played for six different teams during his career. While he found a certain level of success early with the Seattle Mariners, he transformed into one of the game’s most dominant pitchers while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who he led to the 2001 World Series title.
With the D’Backs, he also won a remarkable four consecutive Cy Young awards as the best pitcher in the National League. Because of this success in the desert, Johnson’s Hall of Fame plaque depicts him wearing a Diamondbacks hat. In fact, he is the first Diamondback player elected to the Hall.
Hours after Johnson gave his speech, officials ceremoniously hung his plaque in the Hall of Fame’s hallowed plaque gallery in front of a crowd of reporters and fans. Ironically, the plaque depicts Johnson smiling, even though he usually wore an intense scowl while pitching. Johnson quipped, “So many of the reasons I’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame are long gone now. I no longer have a fastball, I no longer have a bad mullet and my scowl is long gone.”
Johnson was elected into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. Each year, members of the Baseball Writers of America, a professional association of baseball journalists, vote on players to be inducted. A player must be retired at least five years and listed on at least 75 percent of the ballots to get voted in. Johnson garnered a whopping 97.27 percent, the eighth-highest percentage of all time.
Johnson’s plaque reads, “At 6’10”, a towering and intimidating left-hander whose crackling fastball and devastating slider paralyzed hitters for more than two decades. Five-time Cy Young Award winner, including four consecutive, 1999-2002. Led league in strikeouts nine times and posted six 300 strikeout seasons. Ten-time All-star and three-time 20-game winner, ranked second on all-time strikeout list (4,875) and first in strikeouts per nine innings (10.6) upon retirement. Won 303 games and led league in E.R.A. four times. Won three games in 2001 World Series with champion Diamondbacks, earning co-MVP honors.”
Now that he’s retired, Johnson is much more relaxed as he travels in support of the United Service Organizations (USO) and spends time on his life-long passion of photography. Yet, he can still dig up remnants of his game face, as he did for his Hall of Fame speech. For that short time, he took fans back to his playing days, demonstrating the emotion and intensity that made him one of the best pitchers of all time. FBN
By Kevin Schindler, FBN