Sometimes you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever paused for a few seconds or minutes for no apparant reason? Go with those hunches. You may be avoiding some weird disaster.
On March 24, 2001, future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson stood on the mound, facing down Calvin Murray of the San Francisco Giants in a spring training game. The 6-foot-10 power thrower, one of the best to ever play the game, let loose a fastball that likely reached into the triple digits.
But it never made it to the plate.
Instead, it hit a bird, creating an explosion of feathers. The crowd gasped. What had just happened?
Now, 15 years later, the event remains iconic, and the Big Unit says he gets asked about the incident nearly as much as he does about winning the World Series later that year with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not about his five Cy Young awards, his 4,875 strikeouts, his no-hitter in 1990, his perfect game in 2004, but that dang bird. (The bird died, by the way, obviously, and the throw was called a “no pitch.” The bizarre play is not covered in the official rules, and as instructed to do in such cases, the ump used “common sense and fair play” to make that call.)
But Johnson seems to have made peace with the event. In fact, he even made a dead bird the logo of his photography company, a passion that now occupies much of his time.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of the feathery freak accident, we thought we’d ask a few ornithologists—people who study birds—about their thoughts on the event. …
Jonathan Hagstrum, research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey: [Regarding being asked to reply: “Just for the record, I’m not an ornithologist, but a research geophysicist interested in the geophysical underpinnings of avian navigation.”] Not being much of a baseball fan, this is the first time I’ve heard of or seen the event. It’s absolutely amazing! The odds against such a thing happening must be astronomical.
Justin Lehman, ornithology graduate student at the University of Tennessee: I was 11 at the time, so I’m sure I found this event incredibly funny. Looking back, I am just in awe of the incredibly poor luck that bird had.
Read more at Newsweek
It was March 24, 2001, at an otherwise unremarkable spring training game between the Diamondbacks and Giants. San Francisco’s Calvin Murray was at the plate. Arizona’s Randy Johnson was on the mound. And then something equal parts unlikely and horrifying happened. Johnson killed a bird with a pitch.
Last summer, FOX Sports Arizona published a video feature on the incident, which you can watch above. Johnson, then-Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly and PR director Mike Swanson are among those to share their memories of the day.
“A blur going across home plate. The ball simultaneously hitting that blur,” Johnson said of the experience. “It’s just hard to really put that in perspective. It happened so quick.”
The ball impacted the bird and sent a poof of white feathers floating into the air, the bird careening to the ground near the batter’s box. On the video, you can hear gasps from the crowd. …
Most have filed the incident away in their minds as just an amazing viral video from baseball lore, but the incident took a toll on Johnson.
“As odd as this may sound, there was a life lost in this,” Swanson said. “And Randy is a conservationist, and Randy said, ‘I don’t find this very funny.’ ”
Johnson says PETA even tried to bring legal action against him.
“I was considered a bird killer, and they were actually considering filing charges on the bird’s behalf.”
Johnson doesn’t like to talk about the incident, and why should he when he has an entire Hall of Fame career behind him? Nevertheless, the video is eternal if nothing else for the sheer craziness of it. That’s something we truly are not likely to ever see again.
The Diamondbacks, it’s worth noting, went on to win their one and only franchise World Series title that very season.
… in each game, about 100 pitches are thrown by each team. Each pitch travels 60 feet, or 18 meters. … In MLB, [Major League Baseball] there have been around 25 teams, each of which has played around 150 games per year since baseball started being played professional, 100 years ago. That means there have been a total 150 * 100 * 100 = 1.5 million pitches thrown since baseball began.
Randy Johnson is not to blame, but he will always feel horrible about this happening.
If an unlikely event happens that is not covered by the rules, use common sense and fair play to make the call.