Fri Mar 09 01:24pm EST
The most dominant 6-foot-10 pitcher in major-league history called The Stew the other day. More than 300 career victories. Nearly 5,000 strikeouts. One John Kruk nearly scared to death. Yes, we're friends with Mr. Randy Johnson himself.
OK, that's not entirely true — one of his representatives set it up so we could ask the "Big Unit" what he thought of Justin Verlander's MLB 2K12 video game commercial with supermodel Kate Upton.
The ad in a nut shell: Verlander, who has two no-hitters and other awesome accomplishments but has never pitched a perfect game, wants to dine at "The Perfect Club," where Scooby Doo haunted mansion portraits of Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay hang on the walls. But the Perfect Club is only for perfect pitchers (including players of the video game who throw perfect games), so Verlander disguises himself to sneak past Upton.
Perfect. She's just perfect.
Oh, and Verlander was great as Johnson, too. Unit even thought so himself:
"Friends of mine weren't aware that I had agreed to be part of the commercial, so I got a lot of calls and texts after they saw it on TV yesterday," Johnson said. "I had to watch it three or four times because I wasn't really focused on Justin Verlander. It's hard not to pay attention to Kate Upton.
"But Verlander's impression of me, with the hair and the mustache, I'm really flattered. Being removed from the game [since retiring in 2009], that they would ask me, I guess I had a big enough career. And it's a really well put-together commercial. It's hysterical."
But what is it that Verlander mumbles under his breath as he tries to sneak by? Johnson himself didn't even know, so his representative interjected on the call: "Verlander says, 'I'm here for the lobster.' He came up with the line himself."
"There you have it," Johnson said at the revelation. "He was really good."
Johnson said he still has cloudy memories of his perfect game, which came with the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Braves in 2004, when he was 40 years old and led the league with 290 strikeouts.
"Not a whole lot remains clear about anything that's happened since I turned 40," Johnson said jokingly. "But what I take away from it is, I'm still the oldest pitcher ever to throw a perfect game, and I don't know if anyone will ever top that. I was still bringing it 98 mph on my last pitch. That was probably my last big year. After that, I still won 34 games the next two seasons in New York, but injuries — with my back — started to take away from what I could do."
He's still amazed at the spurt of perfect games that happened between 2009 and 2010, when Mark Buehrle, Dallas Braden and Halladay pitched them, and Armando Galarraga effectively did pitch one. Johnson's perfecto in '04 was the only one between 1999 and '09.
"I saw them all on TV," Johnson said. "It's so amazing how you can have a span of none thrown over so long. Stuff just comes in cycles. There's always a couple of great defensive plays to help the pitcher out. The same goes for no-hitters. It's not easy. You just never know when someone will throw one."
These days, Johnson is busy as a father of teenagers — he was heading to one of their baseball games after the interview — and he relishes the time he gets to spend with them.
"As a family, we recently went to Africa, and that was a lot of fun," Johnson said. "Now I'm doing things that, for 26 years, I couldn't do because I didn't have a free summer."
Johnson, though, is working on a second career as a photographer. He's shot some big concerts (Metallica rules!), baseball games and NASCAR events, most recently in Phoenix.
"Photography probably will be an ongoing thing that I'll devote more time to after the kids are out of high school," Johnson said. "We'll see what happens with it."
I couldn't let the Unit go without at least one comment on his most notorious moment: When he hit the bird with a pitch during spring training. Johnson said he doesn't think about it much, but ...
"That's probably even rarer than a perfect game."