Every now and again, a player of reasonable significance decides it's time to hang up their cleats/jersey/horseshoes and call it a career. While "retirement" may seem like a loose term in other major sports (Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Brett Favre again...) usually when a baseball player says they are going to hang it up, it sticks. What better time than Hall of Fame election day to pay tribute to a future HOF?
I have a soft spot for pitchers. I admire the courage it takes to step out on the bump every few days and throw a ball at 95 mph+, only to have it rocketed back in the opposite direction...sometimes right at your head.
I also love the game-inside-the-game of pitching for wins-losses-saves-strikeouts, and being the first line of defense for your squad. I gather possible phenom pitchers cards because I am looking for the next Nolan Ryan (K's), the next Cy Young (Wins), and the next Trevor Hoffman (saves). THESE are the records that I would like to see fall in my lifetime.
Randy Johnson gave it a go. He finishes his career 2nd in K's at 4875 (though first all time for lefties), first all time in K's per IP (10.67) and third all time in wins at 303. Some of the more obscure stats are the above mentioned all-time leader in hit batsman and third all time in wild pitches. There was also the "bird" incident that became an Internet sensation. I will not post the link for any potential PETA blog readers, but needless to say, you know what I am talking about and where to find it if you must.
I remember the 6-10 snarling, flowing locks Johnson of Mariner days that was an absolute beast every time he took the mound. I lost track of him when he left for Arizona, but later got to see the corporate, clean cut, totally unhappy version that was his NYY counterpart. He totally owned the Red Sox though.
Given the opportunity, Johnson got the heck out of dodge at first chance, and went back to Arizona and ultimately San Francisco in more of a mentoring role. His injury last summer pretty much cemented his retirement fate.
What a run though. Johnson has been a blast to follow through the years (even those with the Evil Empire), kept his nose clean, and should be a shoe-in for the HOF in short order.
Congrats on a great career Big Unit. Here's to a retirement full of warm beaches and golf courses, and a less-abrasive nickname!