Thursday, June 04, 2015

Randy Johnson's 300th Win - 6th Anniversary

Well, it's that time of year again, the time when I drop everything and dedicate my time and energy to celebrating the anniversary of the biggest moment in baseball history that I had the fortune to witness: the 300th win of Randall David Johnson. Each year I've taken a look back at this significant moment and reflect on where life has taken me since then and the monumental challenge of getting to 300 wins. This year is quite significant because this would be the first anniversary where Randy Johnson will celebrate it as a Hall of Fame elect*. It just goes to show the passage of time. In 2009 Randy was in his final season, and now he had waited out his eligibility period to win his 300th game. And in 2009 I was preparing to start medical school. Now I am in my second year of residency. Yes, time waits for no one.

*Although I'm pretty sure he doesn't celebrate this milestone. Last year he was in Vietnam pursuing his photography career, and this year he is doing concert photography with the band Rush. Oh well. Hope he's having fun.

Anyways, I'm sure you people that follow my blog (the number is probably zero) are probably tired of seeing me write about this milestone, so this year I might as well do something different, to explore the experiences of other people that attended this historic game (or some poor unfortunate souls that couldn't quite make it.) 

But before we do that, let's talk about how much longer we'd have to wait before we see another 300 game winner. The obvious answer is...a heck of a lot longer! These past six years have seen the chances of so many 300-win hopefuls go down the drain, from Jamie Moyer (269 wins) to Andy Pettitte (256 wins) to Roy Halladay (203 wins). The closest pitcher to 300 wins is Tim Hudson, with 217 wins, and he has indicated that he's likely to retire this year. Bartolo Colon is next with 212 wins and he's become somewhat of a folk hero, as he's tied for the league lead in wins and his at bats have become a spectacle in and of themselves. However he's 42 and he can win 20 games a year until he turns 46 (in 2019) and still fall just short of 300. CC Sabathia is at 210 wins and dealing with knee injuries that has sapped him of his effectiveness. Mark Buehrle is still pitching well, throwing a complete game shutout for win No. 206 and has as good of a shot as any, but he has been playing the retirement game for years, and even if he doesn't retire just yet he's still a good seven years away from the milestone.

After that we get the young studs that are still more than 10 years away from making a run for 300. Justin Verlander is at 152 wins, but he's been ineffective for the past two seasons and currently on the disabled list. Felix Hernandez is finally getting the wins that have eluded him for the past several years, but he's only at 133 wins and probably won't become a challenger for 300 wins until 2026 or 2027. Clayton Kershaw is young and the best pitcher in baseball, but he only just surpassed the 100 win milestone, with 102. He's still probably 13-15 years off from a run at 300. Madison Bumgarner is only 25 and has been a stud since making his major league debut, but he's still sitting at 73 wins and won't even get to 100 wins until 2017 or so. It's way too early to think about 300 wins.

So yes, it seems like we may be on our way into another lengthy 300 win drought. I think one of those aforementioned pitchers would eventually get 300 wins, but it'll be a while. Maybe it wouldn't be as long as the 20 years between Lefty Grove and Warren Spahn, or the 18.75 years between Early Wynn and Gaylord Perry, but we'll be in for a long haul.

Anyways, with that out of the way, here are some of the excellent articles about Randy Johnson's 300th win.

Here's an article by author Seth Freedland writing for The Classical, a sports site with an intellectual focus, talking about his experiences with the rainout on June 3 and his chance to come back the next day to watch some history.
"Truth is, I don't remember much from the game itself. It for sure drizzled throughout and Josh and I for sure sat behind the Giants' dugout, given that there were only a thousand or so of us in attendance. I do remember two thoroughly mediocre offenses struggling to do much of anything. It's only reading the box score today that I'm reminded Johnson took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. But don't be fooled: this wasn't the Randy Johnson of yore, the guy who hit triple digits with an arm angle that seemed to be coming down from Mt. Olympus, the guy who once signed a four-year contract with the Diamondbacks and promptly won four straight Cy Youngs, the guy who once evaporated a bird in flight with a fastball. The dude was forty-five goddamn years old, and still dealing in a way that defied comparison, throwing grunt-aided mid-90s heat past fools who should have known better. I remember following the arc of his pitches and man, the way the ball rose and sped up and dove and danced – so fast and from such a strange burst of limbs - it was as much like magic as anything I've seen. Guys like that, the science gets hard to understand."
-Every Game A Story: Liquid Luck and 300 Wins

This one is pretty cool. It was written by Kathleen Plinske, Ed.D, the campus president of the Osceola and Lake Nona campuses of Valencia College in Florida. Six years ago she was a newly minted doctor of education and die-hard Randy Johnson fan that traveled 800 miles to watch him win his 300th game. Yes, this is the lady with the sign and got to watch the game from behind the screen behind home plate. She also got to meet with the Big Unit himself after the game. Here is her story.
"Randy replied that he'd be happy to meet me, and turned right to me. I shook his hand, and, stumbling for words, explained that I had lost my father the same way that he did. As he expressed his genuine condolences, I explained that I had been his fan since I was 13 and that I was so happy to have seen his 300th win. His wife then asked if I had my camera, and she offered to take our picture. I asked if I could hold up my poster for the photo, and when he saw what my poster said, he exclaimed, "Hey, you were the one cheering for me behind home plate!"
After several photographs, Mr. X. once again asked Randy if he would be willing to sign the baseball as it was for me. Randy happily obliged, and while he was signing his autograph I took the opportunity to explain in more detail how my father had passed away when I was studying for my Master's degree, and although I considered giving up, I followed the Big Unit's example. Just as he had pitched in honor of his dad, I continued my studies in honor of mine, and successfully completed my doctorate the previous summer. Upon hearing that, Randy exclaimed, "Congratulations!" and gave me a hug. I told him that today was his day to be congratulated, and I thanked him once again for setting such a wonderful example, not only in baseball, but also in life."
-How I Met Randy Johnson

That was it for the people that actually saw the game. (Well, other than me, but I don't think you care what I write about.) However, there were quite a few people that tried to watch the game on June 3, 2009, and didn't have the opportunity to watch the actual game on June 4. For example, here is one by Sam Sutton, an editor for Thomson Reuters' "Buyouts" magazine who was still a Congressional intern at the time.
"Interns have no credibility, and I'd already strained mine by spending June 3 braying like an ass about having tickets to that night's game (I remember that much). Calling in sick, or arguing that the supposed needs of a 20 year-old baseball fan superseded those of Northern California's concerned citizens, would have been a losing battle.
I spent June 4, 2009 at a desk in a federal building in Washington, DC, writing letters, picking up phones. A few miles away, Randy Johnson clinched his 300th win. The $56.85 reimbursement from StubHub probably paid for panang curry and some groceries, or maybe a few beers to wash it all down."
-A ticket to see future Hall of Fame Pitcher Randy Johnson get win number 300

Here is an account by Todd Cook, who goes to games across the country and blogs about it. He tried to watch the milestone for one of his favorite pitchers while growing up, but let's just say things didn't work out. It does have some great pictures from the rainout.
"The worst part is that Randy Johnson pitched today and won his 300th game. AND WE MISSED IT!!! Well, we watched it on TV:
I felt a little sorry for Randy because there were only about 5 fans at the game. It was terrible. He should have won number 300 at home with a packed house or somewhere where the stands would be filled with Big Unit fans cheering him on like crazy."
-An Evening At Nationals Park (Without Baseball) - 6/3/09

And of course here's the story from Zack Hample, superfan and ball hawk extraordinaire. He was on a mission to go across the country trying to collect balls for charity. He was hoping to do so at Randy Johnson's 300th win, but the weather and the incompetence of the Nationals organization at that time kept him from doing so. It was a pity.
"Of course Randy Johnson won his 300th game today, and I wasn't there. I thought about getting a cheap hotel and staying overnight, but I had plans the next night back in New York City. Good plans. Very very good plans. I'd say more, but you wouldn't believe me."
-6/3/09 at Nationals Park

Well, that was it for the write-ups. However, there are other ways to honor the game using other media, so here are some of them.

Here are some high definition pictures of the game by photographer Adam Fagen

And not to mention all of the videos that have been uploaded onto YouTube featuring footage from the game.

Randy pitching in the fourth:

President's Race (Hey, it's part of the game):

Randy pitching in the sixth:

Videos of the final out:

Randy tipping his cap:

Randy Johnson's press conference after the game

Whew. That should be enough to keep anybody occupied for a year. And if you haven't gotten enough of Randy Johnson's 300th win, here are my write-ups from the past few years. (Of course I'm probably the only one.)

First Anniversary Collection:
Part One: The Introduction
Part Two: The Player
Part Three: The Set-Up
Part Four: The Rainout
Part Five: The Game
Part Six: The Aftermath

Third Anniversary (The Photos)
Fifth Anniversary: (The Transcript)

Game Highlights
The Wins of Randy Johnson

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