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On This Date in Sports May 18, 2004: Unit of Perfection

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks becomes the first pitcher over the age of 40 to throw a Perfect Game, blanking the Atlanta Braves 2-0 at Turner Field. It is the first No-Hitter in Diamondbacks history and the second in Johnson’s career, he threw one a decade earlier with the Seattle Mariners. Previously Cy Young at the age of 36 was the oldest pitcher to toss a perfect game.

Randy Johnson was a late bloomer. He was always considered a pitching phenom as he was a prospect in the Montreal Expos system. However, he did not make his debut until he was 25, pitching first at USC before being drafted in the second round of the 1985 draft. Packaged to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston in 1989, Randy Johnson finally got his chance to shine in the Pacific Northwest. On June 2, 1990, Randy Johnson who was a hard thrower who often had control problems tossed his first career No-Hitter as the Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 2-0 at the Kingdome.

Five years after his No-Hitter, Randy Johnson won a Cy Young as he led the Mariners to their first division title. However, a few years later, Johnson was traded to the Houston Astros as Seattle was unable to keep him. After finishing the 1998 season with the Astros, Johnson signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would win four straight Cy Young awards in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series, with Johnson splitting World Series MVP with Curt Schilling. The Diamondbacks were just in their third year of existence.

Heading into a Tuesday Night game in Turner Field, both the Atlanta Braves at 17-19 under Bobby Cox and the Arizona Diamondbacks at 14-23 with Manager Bob Brenley were off to slow starts. Randy Johnson came into the game at 3-4, while Braves starter Mike Hampton was 0-4. Johnson showed dominance early with two strikeouts in the first inning. While Arizona scored in the second inning as Alex Cintron doubled home, Danny Bautista. Through the first trip to the Braves order, Randy Johnson had five strikeouts. He added three strikeouts in the second trip to the order, as the Diamondbacks led 1-0 after six, with the Braves watching as their first 18 batters went down in order. In the seventh inning, the D-Backs added a second round as Chad Tracy knocked in Cintron to make it 2-0.

Randy Johnson added two more strikeouts in the seventh, with Chipper Jones receiving the Silver Sombrero with three strikeouts. With 11 strikeouts through eight innings, the Big Unit took the mound in the ninth inning with history on the line. Mark DeRosa lead off the inning with a groundout to second. Nick Green was struck out looking for the second out, as Eddie Perez came up to the plate as a pinch hitter for Mike Hampton. On his way to falling to 0-5, Hampton was a hard-luck loser, allowing two runs on eight hits, while going the distance. Eddie Perez was no watch as he went down swinging for Johnson’s 13th strikeout to complete the Perfect Game.