Profiles in Time: Pitcher Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson is arguably one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. Over the span of his twenty-two seasons in Major League Baseball, he won an impressive five Cy Young Awards for best pitcher. This is second only to Roger Clemens’ seven. Plus, he’s one of only two pitchers to win the award four consecutive times. He boasts 303 career victories, the fifth most by a left-handed pitcher in MLB history, as well as 4875 strikeouts. This is the second most in MLB history behind Nolan Ryan and the most by a left-handed pitcher. And, at the age of 40, he became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game. He was only the seventeenth to ever accomplish the feat. In addition to breaking numerous records, Johnson is famous for his tall six-foot ten-inch stature, his staggering fastballs, and his love of a fine timepiece.

Randy Johnson: The Early Years

Johnson grew up in Walnut Creek, California, and by the time he was in high school, he was already a star athlete. He excelled at both basketball and baseball and had the opportunity to pursue each. When he graduated in 1982, the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the fourth round, but he decided to turn down the bid and accept a full athletic scholarship to the University of South Carolina. There, he continued to play both baseball and basketball.

In 1985, between his junior and senior year, the Montreal Expos drafted Johnson in the second round. This time, he accepted the bid, and he made his MLB debut just three years later in 1988. In his first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he helped lead the team to a victory. However, his stint with the Expos was short; they traded him to the Seattle Mariners just a year later in 1989.

The Beginning of His Career

Johnson was with the Mariners until 1998, and during that decade, he began to refine his talent and break records. In a 1992 game against the Texas Rangers, he struck out eighteen batters in eight innings while throwing a whopping 160 pitches. This pitch count has never been reached in an MLB game since. Then, in 1995, he took home his first Cy Young Award with an 18-2 record and 294 strikeouts. A year later in 1996, Johnson was sidelined through much of the season with a back injury. He quickly rebounded in 1997 with a 20-4 record and 291 strikeouts. Despite his comeback, contract disagreements between Johnson and the Mariners led to his trade to the Houston Astros in 1998.

randy johnson

Randy Johnson, photo credit Wikimedia Commons

After a year with the Astros, Young became a free agent in 1999 and signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That year, he took home his second Cy Young award, which he would receive three more consecutive seasons. One of his career highlights was with the Diamondbacks in 2001, when he led the team to their first World Series victory over the New York Yankees. That year, he won the MVP award and Babe Ruth Award as well as Sports Illustrated naming him Sportsman of the Year.

His Career Ends

By 2003, Johnson had incurred another injury and spent most of the season on the bench. Then, in typical fashion, he made a major comeback the following season in 2004, throwing a perfect game. In 2005, he joined the New York Yankees where he played for only two seasons before returning to the Diamondbacks. His return to Arizona only lasted two seasons. But, in that time, he recorded his 4673rd strikeout, passing Roger Clemens for second place on the all-time strikeouts list. He finished out the final season in his career with the San Francisco Giants, recording his 300th victory. Only twenty-three pitchers in MLB history accomplished this feat.

The Watch: A Ulysse Nardin

Johnson officially announced his retirement in 2010, and two years later, he landed a partnership with Ulysse Nardin. Throughout his career, Johnson put many of his hard earned paychecks toward his watch collection of Ulysse Nardin pieces among other brands. So, when they approached him to collaborate on a watch, it seemed like a perfect match.

The Ulysse Nardin Big Unit Chronograph honors Johnson’s nickname for his tall stature. The design features some subtle odes to the player. For instance a “51” bezel marker in place of the traditional “50” for Johnson’s uniform number. The limited edition model was made in only 100 pieces, making it a collector’s item for devout fans of the brand and Johnson himself.

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