D-backs retire Big Unit's No. 51 jersey
PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson walked from the bullpen to the pitcher's mound before Saturday night's 4-1 D-backs loss to the Reds, the crowd at Chase Field on its feet, and the recently inducted Hall of Famer recalled the most recent time he had made that same walk.
"I think the last time I walked out of the bullpen in a direct line to the mound was in 2001 [World Series] Game 7," Johnson said referring to his relief appearance in that game. "Outside of that, my path from the bullpen would be to the dugout before the game started."
The world championship was not at stake this time around, but it was still a night of celebration as Johnson's No. 51 was retired by the team, joining Jackie Robinson's No. 42 and Luis Gonzalez's No. 20.
Johnson smiled and waved, and when he spoke it was clear that he was comfortable. Former managing general partner Jerry Colangelo and former general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. were near him, as were current managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall.
"I was much more relaxed tonight than I was at the Hall of Fame," said Johnson, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame two weeks ago. "Here it's my comfort zone; I'm between the lines and with people that I know. There was a lot of emotion, but it was a very comfortable feeling as opposed to the Hall of Fame."
Johnson seemed overwhelmed when the D-backs unveiled the gift they got him to mark the occasion, throwing his hands up in the air and smiling like a child on Christmas morning.
"That is a drum kit, it's a Neil Peart 30th anniversary drum kit," Johnson said. "And I believe there's only three or four in existence. It was a drum kit that I was looking to purchase. I'm not a very good drummer so I just couldn't feel like I was worthy enough to have a drum kit like that in my house. But I will move my family room furniture to make room for that."
Whereas his Hall of Fame speech was about thanking the people he came across over his 22-year career, Johnson focused his speech Saturday on those he came in contact during his time in Arizona.
While he mentioned names that were no doubt recognizable to fans -- former teammates like Matt Williams, Craig Counsell, Gonzalez, Steve Finley, Jay Bell and Mark Grace to name a few -- Johnson also thanked those behind the scenes, including clubhouse workers and front office executives.
"Here it's about my teammates, the clubhouse people that make things work, the front office people, the fans," Johnson said. "That's important to me, because I want them to know they were important to me along the way."
Johnson was asked what it felt like to see his No. 51 up on the wall beyond right field, and he struggled to put his feelings into words.
"Very cool," he said. "I don't know what to say. It's like one thing after another. You don't prepare for this kind of stuff. You know how bad I was [early] in my career. Who prepares for this kind of stuff? My goodness, if you go back to '91, '92, I think the Seattle Mariners were probably wondering, 'Is this guy even going to pan out?'
"When I say I'm honored and I'm humble, I truly am. "