SAN FRANCISCO – Randy Johnson looked so awkward on the mound early in his career, that shaggy hair dangling down his neck as he fired a blazing fastball in every direction but the strike zone.
Now, after 22 major league seasons, the Johnson is walking away from baseball as one of the game’s greatest pitchers.
The 6-foot-10 Johnson announced his retirement on a conference call Tuesday, a decision that had been expected from the overpowering left-hander who reached 300 wins last June.
“I really wanted to go out on my terms,” Johnson said. “I just feel like there’s not a lot more for me to do in this game. I just think it’s a natural progression when you play this long. Eventually you have to say it’s time.”
A five-time Cy Young Award winner, the 46-year-old Johnson accomplished just about everything in his stellar career.
He owns a World Series ring and Series co-MVP honors, and was a 10-time All-Star. He threw two no-hitters, including a perfect game, and ranks second on the career strikeout list.
Johnson finishes with a record of 303-166 and 4,875 strikeouts in 4,1351/3 innings for Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona (twice), the New York Yankees and San Francisco. His strikeouts are the most by a left-hander and second to Nolan Ryan’s 5,714.
“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind. I never really got caught up in what I did,” Johnson said. “I never really dwelled on my achievements. They’re nice. Maybe now I’ll be able to reflect on them.”
Johnson overcame several injuries to keep pitching effectively into his mid-40s.
Johnson went 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 starts and five relief appearances for San Francisco last season despite missing more than two months with a strained left shoulder that also had a tear in the rotator cuff.
Johnson beat the Washington Nationals on June 4 last season to become the 24th pitcher to win 300 career games.
Johnson pitched his first no-hitter in 1990, won 19 games with 308 strikeouts in 1993 and led the Mariners to their first playoff berth with an 18-2 record in 1995. He finished his 10-year stint in Seattle with a 130-74 record before being traded to Houston in 1998.
At age 40, Johnson pitched a perfect game against Atlanta.
“I never thought I was going to play this long. I’m blessed that I did,” he said, adding that he plans to coach someday.
Johnson has a one-year service agreement to work in some capacity for Arizona.