Big Unit recalls father's wisdom in speech

D-backs legend Johnson inducted into Arizona Sports Hall of Fame

Big Unit recalls father's wisdom in speech

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Randy Johnson was in high school, there were times he felt his dad was picking on him.

Instead, Bud Johnson was teaching his son an important lesson, one that Randy shared during a deeply personal acceptance speech last week while being inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.

Johnson won four National League Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 while pitching for the D-backs and was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, which saw the D-backs defeat the Yankees in seven games.

In 2015, Johnson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

"My success was based on [my teammate's] success," Johnson said. "It wasn't an individual sport that I was playing. ... I had a lot of great teammates, a lot of great coaches, a lot of great trainers and support at home from my kids, my wife, friends and teammates."

As well as some hard-earned wisdom, courtesy of his father.

When Bud asked his son to mow the lawn, he wanted it done well. If he asked his son to take out the garbage -- well, then, make sure to take all the garbage out. Don't leave some at the bottom of the can.

"What he was trying to instill in me, when I thought he was just picking on me, was to have pride in what you do," Johnson said. "He instilled in me to be the best that I could be. Work hard. You're putting your name on whatever you're doing. It doesn't matter what that is. It could be sitting behind a desk, or mowing a lawn, or pitching in front of 50,000 people. It's your name on whatever you're doing, so take pride in it."
 

It was a lesson that stuck with Johnson as he battled control issues in high school, college and even into his big league career.

Remembering his dad's advice, Johnson sought the advice of Hall of Fame pitchers like Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn. Any little way he could find to get better was something he pursued.

Well, almost everything, that is. One thing Johnson didn't do was take a shot of whiskey before a start, like Spahn told him he did if he had a sore arm.

"How cool would that have been?" Johnson said drawing laughs from the audience. "A 99-mph fastball and I take a shot of whiskey, and my teammates see that and then go tell the opponents that I took a shot of whiskey before I was warming up."

Johnson closed his speech by addressing his 16-year-old daughter, Alexandria, a standout volleyball player who had accompanied him to the banquet.

"There's far more in life that's important than sports," Johnson said. "I hope I've done a good job raising you as my daughter, because you're going to be a person longer than a volleyball player. Volleyball, I know you love it and I love watching you, but volleyball is going to go. That window is closing. Do as good as you can, work hard and don't cheat yourself."

Bud Johnson couldn't have said it better himself.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.