Welcome to "This Week in Baseball History," a new feature on B/R's Horsehide Chronicles blog meant to get you up to speed on baseball trivia. The game of baseball has provided us with a ton of memories since it was born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1846, and this is where those memories will be revisited.
Please note that we're defining "this week" to be within a couple days on either side of today's date.
When the 2004 season began, nobody really knew what to expect from Randy Johnson. The Big Unit had spent much of the 2003 season on the disabled list, and was ineffective when he was able to pitch.
To boot, Johnson turned 40 in September of the 2003 season. He officially went from being a guy who looked like an old man to being a guy who actually was an old man. His career was surely nearing its end.
Um, no. Not so fast.
The Big Unit showed flashes of his old brilliance in the first couple weeks of the 2004 season, and he was better than ever the night he and the Arizona Diamondbacks faced the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 18th, 2004.
That night, 27 men came to the plate for the Braves, and all 27 of them walked away empty-handed. Johnson pitched the 17th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball, striking out 13 in the process.
It was a vintage Randy Johnson performance. He was running his fastball up to the plate in the mid-90s, and he was getting Braves hitters to whiff on his legendary slider. In all, he racked up 26 swings and misses.
The Braves had some pretty good hitters—Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, J.D. Drew—and none of them could touch Johnson. He was filthy.
"A game like this was pretty special," said Johnson after the game was over, via the Associated Press. "It doesn't come along very often."
He had a point. Johnson's perfecto was the first since David Cone's in 1999. More importantly, the 40-year-old Johnson found himself as the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfect game. Before him, the record had been held by Cy Young, who had been 37 years old when he threw the very first perfect game in Major League Baseball history in 1904.
While it was obviously the first perfect game of the Big Unit's career, his perfecto wasn't his first career no-hitter. He threw a no-no on June 2nd, 1990 when he was with the Seattle Mariners.
In case you're curious, Johnson does indeed hold the record for the longest gap between no-hitters. He also holds all-time record for strikeouts per nine innings at 10.6098. He and Greg Maddux are the only pitchers to ever win four straight Cy Young awards.
In short, the Big Unit had himself a pretty good career. And unlike most pitchers, he actually got better with age.
Today's hurlers could learn a thing or two from the great Randy Johnson.
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