Randy Johnson spent 22 years on the mound and in the minds of every hitter who stepped in the batter's box against him.
He'll spend the rest of his years retired, looking back on a stellar career and basking in the praise from his fans and baseball insiders.
The transformation from "player" to "former player" has begun. And though Johnson is retired, he will not be forgotten.
"He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer for sure. His career was amazing," said Edgar Martinez, Johnson's teammate in Seattle. "When he got here, you could see how much potential he had, and he just grew into a great pitcher and leader each year. He had the determination and intensity to be the best he could be, and he became one of the best pitchers of all time."
It's tough to argue with Martinez.
During his career, Johnson won five Cy Young Awards and was selected to 10 All-Star teams. He racked up 4,875 strikeouts, second only to Nolan Ryan's 5,714 on the all-time list, and posted a 303-166 career record. He threw two no-hitters, the second of which was a perfect game (May 18, 2004, in Atlanta), and he won a World Series in 2001 with the D-backs.
In his final season on the mound, Johnson went 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA with the Giants in 2009.
"The entire San Francisco Giants organization would like to salute Randy Johnson on a brilliant Hall of Fame career and congratulate him on his retirement," the Giants said in a statement. "He has been a tremendous champion of this great game, escalating to heights that few have reached. He will go down as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game. It was a pleasure this last season to have Randy in a Giants uniform. His fierce competitive spirit and his role as a mentor to our young pitching staff helped our team immensely as we returned to a winning way."
THE CY YOUNG YEARS
Randy Johnson collected five Cy Young Awards during his illustrious career, including four consecutive from 1999-2002. His five awards trails only Roger Clemens, who earned seven.
Ryan, a Hall of Famer, has fond memories of Johnson. In August 1992, Big Tex spoke with the Big Unit about mechanics, and the result was a big payoff for Johnson. The 6-foot-10 left-hander finished the 1993 season 19-8 with a 3.24 ERA and 308 strikeouts in 255 1/3 innings.
In 1995, he won Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees and returned on one day's rest to strike out six batters in three innings of relief, and the Mariners won Game 5 to advance to the AL Championship Series. He also won his first Cy Young Award that year. In 1999, Johnson won the first of four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards while with the D-backs.
"During his long career, Randy was one of the most dominating pitchers that has ever played the game," Ryan said. "I really enjoyed watching his development as he became one of the finest pitchers the game has ever had. It is a credit to his conditioning program and his work ethic that he was able to compete and perform at the Major League level into his mid-40s. I wish Randy the very best and salute him on his outstanding career."
Originally signed by the Expos in 1985, Johnson was traded to Seattle in 1989. While with the Mariners, he won 130 games and led the team in wins five times in 11 seasons. He pitched the organization's first no-hitter, became its first 20-game winner and remains the only Seattle pitcher to win a Cy Young Award.
"On behalf of all of us with the Seattle Mariners, I want to congratulate Randy Johnson on an amazing Hall of Fame career," club president Chuck Armstrong said. "He won his first Cy Young Award with us and as I said at the time he received the award, 'Since Iron Man Joe McGinnity in 1904 with the [New York] Giants, there was no team as dependent on one pitcher as Randy was to us in 1995.'"
Johnson spent six seasons with the D-backs starting in 1999 and teamed with Curt Schilling from 2000 to 2003 to form a dominating duo at the top of the rotation. Schilling and Johnson were World Series co-MVPs in 2001.
"For two years I have never witnessed the complete domination, day in and day out, he brought to the game," Schilling said. "There were nights he made the best players, best lineups and best teams look like he was in a league above them. His intensity and 'anger' were unparalleled. I could never get to that 'place' he could when I pitched; I enjoyed it while I was doing it, I think. He was a miserable and angry man on the days he had the ball. He's the most dominating pitcher I ever played with at any level."
Johnson returned to Arizona for two seasons starting in 2007 and still has a one-year personal services contract with the organization.
"Randy had some of his best years while with the D-backs, providing Hall of Fame memories for our great fans," D-backs president Derrick Hall said. "He is an important part of our celebrated history, and we salute him on a remarkable career and thank him for his contributions to our franchise."
The year before joining the D-backs, Johnson also made his mark in Houston. He was traded from Seattle to the Astros at the Trade Deadline in 1998 for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama. He went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts and helped the Astros win 102 games and the NL Central title.
In the playoffs, Johnson started two games against the Padres in the NLDS and had a 1.93 ERA in two starts, but lost both games.
"It was a very exciting couple of months with certainly a tremendous and a very memorable performance," Astros president Tal Smith said. "That may have been our best team really. Obviously, we didn't fare well when we went to San Diego, but you have to give the Padres credit. We ran into some good pitching out there. Randy really had a phenomenal half a season for us and he's just one of the great pitchers of all time."
Carl Pavano, Johnson's teammate with the Yankees, will never forget the two seasons he spent with the Big Unit.
"It's amazing what he's done over his career for numerous reasons, achieving so much at a high level for so long," Pavano said. "I got to see a lot of his work ethic. He was regimented. He had a strong desire to win and compete. The guy has had an incredible career. I always wanted to go out there and watch him pitch. He won 17 games two years in a row in New York. It's incredible what he's done."
Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick is happy he'll never have to face Johnson again -- in person.
"I remember growing up and watching Randy and playing him on videogames," he said. "Even though he's left-handed, I was a pitcher when I was a kid, so I paid a lot of attention to him. He's a dominant force, definitely a competitor. It was awesome to see him get his 300th win."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.