Randy Johnson had a Hall-of-Fame career as a pitcher. It was one filled with memorable achievements.
Five Cy Young Awards, 303 career victories, a no-hitter and a perfect game, 4,875 career strikeouts — including 20 in a single game — and a World Series championship with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Yet it was an incident during a spring training game that will be one of the most-remembered moments of Johnson’s career.
On March 24, 2001, the Diamondbacks were hosting the San Francisco Giants in a Cactus League game in Tucson. Johnson was pitching to San Francisco’s Calvin Murray.
As his pitch was just a few feet from home plate, an unlucky bird flew right in the path of the ball, and met an infamous demise.
“It literally just turned into a cloud of feathers,” said Bob Brenly, manager of the 2001 Diamondbacks.
Johnson has said that other than his World Series title, killing the bird is the thing he gets asked about the most since he retired.
“It happened in a fraction of a second,” Johnson told Fox Sports in 2016. “There was a blur going across home plate. The ball simultaneously hitting that blur.
“Just really hard to put that into perspective. It happened so quick.”
Johnson told reporters after the incident he didn’t find it humorous at all. He said he also faced the wrath of PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — which had considered filing charges against him.
“If I could go back in time, I would have never thrown that pitch,” Johnson said.
Johnson has done his best to keep the memory of the bird alive by making it the logo for his photography business.
The best thing you'll see today: The logo for Randy Johnson's photography company is of a dead bird. pic.twitter.com/RnEx3E3PWU
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2015
And just in case you’re wondering, the official call on the play by the umpire was a “no pitch.” Meaning it was as if it never happened.
Just don’t tell that to the bird.
By the way, Johnson isn’t the only Hall of Famer to have had a tragic run-in with a bird. In a 1983 game in Toronto, Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw his final warm-up toss to a ball boy down the right-field line. His toss inadvertently struck a seagull in the neck, killing the bird.
Unlike Johnson, Winfield was actually charged by authorities for the strike. Metropolitan Toronto Police charged Winfield with causing “unnecessary suffering of an animal.” Toronto general manager Pat Gillick paid a $500 bond for Winfield, enabling him to be released from custody after one hour at the police station. The charge was eventually dropped after authorities determined no criminal intent was involved.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.