The Starter: Big Units -- 300 and more
Giant Johnson's amazing feat, by the numbers
Everyone knows 300 victories is a huge accomplishment, the stuff of which busts at Cooperstown are made.A lot of people know that Randy Johnson is the 24th pitcher to reach that milestone.
Here are a few things you might not know about Randy Johnson's quest for 300 wins:
Johnson won his 300th game in his first try after winning No. 299. Only four other of the 300-game winners over the last 50 years -- Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry and Tom Seaver -- won their 300th on their first attempt. Now, 12 of the 24 members of the 300 Club -- including Johnson -- also have no-hitters on their resumes. Nolan Ryan leads that club within the club with seven, followed by Cy Young with three, and Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Spahn and Pud Galvin with two. With his 2004 perfect game one of his two no-nos, Johnson joins Young as the only pitchers to have a perfecto among his 300 wins.
Johnson's wins by team
Johnson's 300th win was his fifth of the year. He has a long way to go to reach the most wins in a milestone season -- that belongs to Cy Young, who went 33-10 in 1901. Fewest wins? Early Wynn, who had just one victory and it was his last -- and 300th -- in 1963.
The Big Unit is halfway to joining 20 of the first 23 who won at least 10 games the year they notched No. 300. Five of them won more than 20 -- the last one was Spahn, who went 21-13 in 1961.
Three of the first 23 retired after the season in which they joined the 300 Club. Young lasted the longest after hitting the milestone, going 10 more seasons. That's how he got to 511, considered by many the most unreachable record in baseball. That, and pitching until he was 44. Young also leads the 300 Club, and all of baseball, in losses with 316. With 164 losses, Johnson currently has fewer than all of those who have reached the wins milestone except for Lefty Grove (141). Johnson is the sixth left-hander to reach the milestone. Spahn, Carlton, Eddie Plank, Tom Glavine and Grove are the others. Two members of the club finished with exactly 300 victories: Grove and Wynn, so with one more victory, Johnson will move into sole possession of 22nd on the all-time wins list. The only members of the club who have not yet been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame are the ones who aren't eligible yet: Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Glavine and now Johnson. Johnson has the most victories with the Mariners (130) among his six teams and the least with the Expos (three). Johnson is the seventh 300-game winner who played for the Giants, but it's been almost a century since it was done in a Giants uniform. Mathewson was the last to accomplish it, winning his 300th career game in a New York Giants uniform in 1912. Spahn, Carlton and Perry all pitched for the Giants but hit the number elsewhere, while Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch reached the mark with the Giants, both before 1900.
Johnson is the first member of the 300 Club to have started his career in Canada (Expos, 1988-89), and the only one to have pitched for the Expos -- who became the Nationals, his opponent Thursday. Johnson joins with Roger Clemens (Blue Jays, 1997-98) and Phil Niekro (Blue Jays, 1987) as the only milestone members to have played home games in America's northern neighbor. Yes, Big Unit is the tallest, at 6-foot-10. But did you know he's tallest by half a foot? The tallest other members of the 300-win club are 6-foot-4 -- Carlton, Clemens and Perry. The shortest current members of the 300-win club were 5-foot-8 -- Galvin and Welch. Johnson was born in 1963, the same year Wynn reached the 300-win plateau. Only one other current member of the 300-win club was born in California. Tom Seaver was born in Fresno. Johnson was born in Walnut Creek. At 45 years, 266 days, Johnson became the second-oldest pitcher to reach the mark. Niekro was the oldest, at 46 years, 188 days.
With 72 wins, Johnson has more victories in his 40s than he did in his 20s (64). Johnson joined Carlton as the only one to notch his 300th win against his original organization. Carlton debuted in 1965 with the Cardinals, whom he made his 300th victim on Sept. 23, 1983 while pitching for the Phillies. Johnson broke in with three wins for the 1988 Montreal Expos -- who as the transplanted Washington Nationals were rung up for No. 300 on June 4, 2009.
Johnson won his 300th game in the seventh different uniform he has worn -- making him the second-most circulated 300-game winner. Gaylord Perry (eight teams, 1962-83) moved around the most. The only one to spend his entire season with one team was the Washington Senators' Walter Johnson (1907-27).
Having a fresh 300-game winner in their midst hasn't historically done much for teams, far from the emotional lift one might expect. Five did go on to win pennants (Christy Mathewson's 1912 Giants, Eddie Plank's 1915 St. Louis Terriers of the Federal League, Carlton's 1983 Phillies, Don Sutton's 1986 Angels and Roger Clemens' 2003 Yankees). But the teams of the other 18 finished the milestone seasons an average of 15 1/2 games behind.
Johnson's milestone game, compromised by weather issues, drew the second-lowest attendance of the 13 for which records are available. Early Wynn's big one on July 13, 1963, in Kansas City drew 13,565. High mark: The 55,214 who jammed Yankee Stadium on June 13, 2003, to see Roger Clemens do it against the Cardinals (the only 300th win in an Interleague game, incidentally).
Johnson is the ninth to win his 300th on the road -- but only the second to do it in the first game of a doubleheader (Christy Mathewson was the first, on June 28, 1912). Wynn, whose win came in the nightcap, is the only other whose 300th win was part of a twin bill.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, The Grind. Associate reporter Andrew Pentis contributed the research for this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.