Last night, it was a thrill to be at the ballpark and see Randy Johnson get his 4,000th strikeout. The Big Unit becomes only the 4th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish this feat. Despite being far from a sell-out for this Tuesday night game vs. the San Diego Padres, there was still a perceptible buzz at the ballpark from the moment I entered the ballpark with Johnson just 8 strikeouts away from the milestone.
Strikeout 3,999 was recorded in the 7th inning and all the ballpark video screen lit up with the number. The ballpark was seemingly on its feet for each and every pitch of the next inning. We loudly cheered each strike and groaned just as loudly when a Padre was retired with a ground-out or fly-out. Then it happened. With one out in the eighth, Jeff Cirillo swung for strike three! There was a firework-like display of camera flashes from the stands. The crowd erupted, almost missing (or barely caring) about Diamonbacks catcher, Robby Hammock, throwing out a player at third for a double play ... ending the inning.
Johnson publicly stated he did not want a stoppage of play at the big strikeout -- so it was nice that it came at the end of a half inning. The accomplishment deserved to be cheered loud and long -- and that is exactly what the 34,000+ fans did. Johnson tipped his cap to the appreciative crowd - sending up another roar. It was one of the longest ovation that I can remember anytime or anywhere (well barring the 2001 World Series). The crowd did not quiet until the next Diamondback stepped up to the plate to start the bottom of the 8th.
I have to admit to having a "Jessica Simpson" moment. After the strikeout, the Jumbotron showed the members of the "4000 K Club" (just for the record the others are Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Steve Carlton). I turned to Todd and said ... "Shouldn't it be the 4K club, isn't 4000 K really the 4 million club?" Giving me his best "are you really that dumb" Nick look, I realized my error. In baseball lingo, a strikeout is referred to as a "K" -- so my interpretation of K being defined as a 1,000 was pretty darn stupid in this context. But heck, I don't think Jessica would know that a K can represent a 1,000 or a strikeout! [Though comparing my intelligence to Ms. Simpson might not be exactly patting myself on the back now that I think of it]
So thanks to Randy Johnson for giving us Diamondback fans two things cheer about this season -- first a rare perfect game and now this milestone career mark. They have been about the only 2 things to be happy about in this truly dismal season.