No fastball, no mullet and no scowl for HOFer Johnson

By Bob Elliott
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. _ Randy Johnson learned to pitch in Livermore, Calif.

He’d throw a tennis ball against the wooden door of his garage trying to emmulate Oakland A’s lefty Vida Blue.

“After about half an hour my dad would come out, lay a hammer down and say ‘make sure you pound all those nails in when you are done.”

Johnson’s father, a police officer, passed away on Christmas Day in 1992.

“He saw three years of my career, not a lot to brag about,” Johnson said during his induction speech. “But there was that one game where I threw a no-hitter.”

Johnson had a no-no with the Seattle Mariners in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on June 2, 1990.

“I gave him a call, but he said it was far from perfect, I walked six batters, well 13, 14 years later, I was perfect, dad, one game,” said Johnson pointing his hand to the sky.

Johnson was 40 and wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform on May 18, 2004, when was perfect game against the Atlanta Braves.

Traded by the Montreal Expos to the Mariners with Brian Holman and Gene Harris, for Mark Langston in 1989, Johnson recalled facing Langston in the 1995 tie-breaker at the Kingdome.

“The trade to Seattle set my career in motion, my apprenticeship ... 10 years there,” Johnson said. “I played with Ken Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, Dan Wilson, and so many more. Griffey will be here for sure next year.

“There were some lean years in Seattle as we were learning how to play. Lou Piniella came into place and ‘Refuse to lose’ was our motto in 1995. With his leadership and guidance, we came down a one-game playoff. Ironically, enough I pitched against the same guy I got traded for to Montreal (Langston) for the AL West. It was a very magical moment for Seattle.”

Johnson didn’t brag how he won the duel ... but it was one sided. Wilson singled in the game’s first run in the fifth, Seattle scored four in the seventh and four in the eighth in a 9-1 win. 

Johnson, who underwent four knee surgeries and three back surgeries, became emotional as he thanked his mother. He told how both parents were working as he tried to find Little League practice on his own as a seven-year-old. 

“I came home confused because there were so many people there, by the time she got home, I was walking
in having never made the practice,” Johnson said. “She took me by the hand, took me to my first practice, making sure that baseball would start for me on that day.

“I love you, mom. I love you so much. You’re the most important person in my life.”

Johnson brought two brave men from Arizona and the Wounded Warrior Project Roy Halvorgen and Specialist Kenji Knee-ha-Poll. He’s made seven USO tours to visit troops.

There were 49 Hall of Famers behind Johnson as he spoke. He turned and said “it would have been fun to face you Reggie,” to Reggie Jackson.

“I no longer have a fastball, no longer have a bad mullet and my scowl is gone,” said Johnson, “I’m happy to be here. I’m so happy to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and be in the greatest fraternity of all time.”


Bob ElliottComment