When I was playing as a 12-year-old, I was at shortstop and a runner was on first. The batter hit a ground ball to the first baseman who fielded it cleanly and threw it to me as I went for the put-out at second base. I looked at the runner coming from first every so briefly but just long enough for me to take my eye off the ball. I must have lowered my glove ever so slightly and the ball hit be right in the upper lip, bouncing off my face so that the second baseman was able to catch the ball as he crossed the bag for the out on the runner. I had the impression of baseball seams on my lip for about a week.
One of the weirdest things to happen in Major League Baseball, however, was during a Spring Training game on March 24, 2001. The Arizona Diamondbacks were playing the San Francisco Giants. The game was not televised but everyone heard about it immediately and clips of the event soon made it to the sports channels for all to see.
Randy Johnson was pitching for the Diamondbacks. If you don’t remember, Johnson stood at 6’11” and had long, gangly hair and, when he was in mid-pitch to the plate, must have looked like the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill of Rome.
Johnson stood on the mound facing the Giant’s Calvin Murray. Johnson threw a fastball that never made it to the plate. Instead, the ball came into direct contact with a bird flying across the path of the incoming ball. It all happened so fast that if it weren’t for the announcer saying something into the mic during the broadcast, most people would have missed it.
When asked about it later, Johnson indicated that he saw a blur going across home plate. He then said that he noticed that this fastball hit the blur. At the time, he wasn’t aware that the object in motion was a bird. By the time he saw the movement, the fastball was already out of his and it was too late.
Not Being in the Line-up, Bird Could Not Take 1st Base
Yes, it was an accident. I mean, who could have intentionally aimed at a bird in light and hit it? Still, some members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) were outraged and the organization considered filing a lawsuit against Johnson for animal cruelty. Randy hired a lawyer and PETA was never able to get their accusation off the ground.
Randy Johnson, also known as “Big Unit,” was born in 1963 and played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball before retiring in 2009. He played mostly for the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Randy Johnson had 29 games (across both leagues) where he struck out at least fifteen batters, a Major League record for Games in a Career with 15+ Strikeouts. He is second on the all-time strikeouts list at 4,875, second behind Nolan Ryan, giving him the Most Strikeouts in Major League history by any left-handed pitcher.
Johnson would be named to All-Star Games 10 times and won one World Series (2001). But ask a baseball fan what they remember about Randy Johnson, chances are it will be when a bird was Hit by Pitch by Randy Johnson.
You can find the clip on YouTube. All you are is Johnson delivering the pitch followed by an explosion of white feathers.