It’s been a long time since Randy Johnson was slinging it from the mound in the major leagues. It’s been an even longer time since Johnson donned a USC uniform.
Still, one of the greatest pitchers to ever do it was recently featured as having some of the best seasons by a player in the 1990’s for his efforts across multiple years.
The Big Unit was one of the hardest pitchers to hit in his prime, pitching a perfect game in 2004, leading the MLB in strikeouts for nine seasons, earning five Cy Young Awards and even a World Series MVP to boot. The 10x All-Star winner is widely considered to be among the greatest to ever play the position in the majors and recently, Johnson was featured among ESPN’s best 90 seasons of the 1990s.
Johnson’s Cy Young seasons during the 90s made an appearance at No. 6 and No. 7 among the 90 best seasons.
“What makes Johnson even tougher is that he’s a little bit wild,” Angels outfielder Jim Edmonds said in 1997. “There’s nobody like him. On the one hand, I hope I do get in the lineup against him. On the other hand, I hope I don’t. You know what I mean?”
From May 1994 through the end of 1997, Johnson went 54-9, interrupted by back surgery that limited him to eight starts in 1996. In some fashion, the best was yet to come. He signed with the Diamondbacks in 1999 and won the first of four straight Cy Young Awards. He raised his mastery of the strikeout to a new level. Before he came along, no starting pitcher had averaged 12 K’s per nine innings. Johnson did it in 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Through 2002, he had seven of the top 10 K’s/9 IP seasons of all time, including 13.41 in 2001. Yeah, you might not want to face him either.
P.S.: Apologies for not squeezing Kerry Wood’s 1998 rookie season on here. His 12.58 K’s per nine set a record and still ranks sixth on the all-time list.
His 1997 season was also featured at No. 39 for his 1997 season with the Mariners as well.
“The Big Unit dominates while (Greg) Maddux and (Kevin) Brown have Cy Young-worthy years.”
Suppose it’s also important to note here that Mark McGwire was also featured with four of his seasons in the 90s checking in the top 30 including 1996 with the Oakland Athletics, 1997 with the A’s and the St. Louis Cardinals and 98-99 with the Cardinals.
Reminder: McGwire and Johnson played for USC at the same time. What a duo that was.
Johnson pitched just 12 starts in his USC career, all during the 1984 season where he finished 5-3 with 73 strikeouts against 52 walks. He was famously cut from the Team USA because of strikezone issues — that he obviously got worked out in the end.
McGwire belted home 51 home runs in two seasons with the Trojans, 1983-84 and knocked home 139 RBIs in those two seasons. Many forget he was recruited to USC as a pitcher as well.
There you have it, though, some baseball news for your baseball-less summer so far.
Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire stories — how could it be a bad day if you’re starting it out with that?