Johnson in 2016
September 10, 1963 |
Walnut Creek, California
|September 15, 1988, for the Montreal Expos|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 4, 2009, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Earned run average||3.29|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||97.3% (first ballot)|
Randall David Johnson (born September 10, 1963), nicknamed "The Big Unit", is an American former baseball pitcher who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1988 to 2009 for six teams. He played primarily for the Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks. His 303 career victories rank as the fifth-most by a left-hander in MLB history, while his 4,875 strikeouts place him second all-time behind Nolan Ryan and are the most by a left-hander. He holds five of the seven highest single-season strikeout totals by a left-hander in modern history. Johnson won the Cy Young Award five times, second only to Roger Clemens' seven, and he is one of two pitchers (the other being Greg Maddux) to win the award four consecutive times (1999–2002). In 1999, he joined Pedro Martínez and Gaylord Perry in the rare feat of winning the award in both the American and National Leagues. He is also one of five pitchers to pitch no-hitters in both leagues. With his second no-hitter in 2004, he became the oldest pitcher in major league history to throw a perfect game. He is one of the few pitchers in history to record a win against all 30 MLB franchises.
One of the tallest players in major league history at 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) and a ten-time All-Star, Johnson was celebrated for having one of the most dominant fastballs in the game. He regularly approached – and occasionally exceeded – 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) during his prime. He also threw a hard, biting slider. After struggling early in his career, gaining only 64 wins by his 30th birthday, he went on to lead his league in strikeouts nine times, and in earned run average, winning percentage and complete games four times each. Randy won the pitching Triple Crown in 2002. Johnson was named one of two World Series Most Valuable Players in 2001, with three pitching victories, leading the Diamondbacks to a world championship in only their fourth year of play. His .646 career winning percentage ranks sixth among lefthanders with at least 200 decisions, and among southpaws he ranks eighth in games started (603) and ninth in innings pitched ( 4,135 1⁄3). He also finished his career first in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (10.67), third in hit batsmen (188), and tenth in fewest hits allowed per nine innings pitched (7.24). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, his first year of eligibility, and is the first member of the Hall to be depicted in a Diamondbacks uniform on his plaque.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Major league career (1988–2009)
- 3 Pitching style
- 4 Accomplishments
- 5 Personal life
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Johnson was born in Walnut Creek, California, to Carol Hannah and Rollen Charles "Bud" Johnson. By the time he entered Livermore High School, he was a star in baseball and basketball. In 1982, as a senior, he struck out 121 batters in 66 innings, and threw a perfect game in his last high school start. He also played on a Bercovich team that assembled top players from throughout California. After high school, he was drafted in 1982 by the Atlanta Braves in the 4th round and offered $50,000 to sign. Instead, Johnson accepted a full athletic scholarship to play baseball for the University of Southern California. While at USC, he also played 2 years of basketball. He was a starter at USC (where he was a teammate of Mark McGwire) under coach Rod Dedeaux, but often exhibited control problems.
Major league career (1988–2009)
Montreal Expos (1988–1989)
Johnson was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1985 Major League Baseball draft. He made his major league debut on September 15, 1988 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, earning a 9–4 victory with a five-inning outing in which he gave up two runs with five strikeouts; his first victim was Orestes Destrade in the second inning. Johnson posted a record of 3–0 with a 2.42 earned run average (ERA) in four games in 1988, but 1989 saw him slip to an 0–4 mark with a 6.67 ERA in seven games through May 7, and on May 25 he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in a trade involving five pitchers that brought Mark Langston to Montreal.
Seattle Mariners (1989–1998)
After joining the Mariners during the 1989 season, Johnson led the AL in walks for three consecutive seasons (1990–92), and hit batsmen in 1992 and 1993. In July 1991, facing the Milwaukee Brewers, the erratic Johnson allowed 4 runs on 1 hit, thanks to 10 walks in 4 innings. A month later, a 9th-inning single cost him a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. Johnson suffered another 10-walk, 4-inning start in 1992.
But his untapped talent was volcanic: In 1990, Johnson became the first left-hander to strike out Wade Boggs three times in one game, and a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers attested to his potential. Johnson credits a session with Nolan Ryan late in the 1992 season with helping him take his career to the next level; Ryan has said that he appreciated Johnson's talent and did not want to see him take as long to figure certain things out as he had taken. Ryan recommended a slight change in his delivery; before the meeting, Johnson would land on the heel of his foot after delivering a pitch, and he therefore usually landed offline from home plate. Ryan suggested that he land on the ball of his foot, and almost immediately, he began finding the strike zone more consistently. In a September 27, 1992 game against the Texas Rangers, with Ryan the opposing starting pitcher, Johnson struck out 18 batters in eight innings while throwing 160 pitches, a pitch count that has not been reached in an MLB game since.
Johnson broke out in 1993 with a 19–8 record, 3.24 ERA and his first of six 300-plus strikeout seasons (308). In May 1993, Johnson again lost a no-hitter to a 9th-inning single; again, the opponent was the Oakland Athletics. He also recorded his 1,000th career strikeout against the Minnesota Twins' Chuck Knoblauch. Prior to the trade deadline, Johnson was nearly dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for Steve Karsay and Mike Timlin. Toronto general manager Pat Gillick had two separate transactions on the table including the one for Johnson with Seattle general manager Woody Woodward and one for Rickey Henderson with Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson. When Gillick was unable to contact Woodward he agreed to utilize the deal with Alderson. When Woodward returned Gillick's call he said he would agree to the deal for Johnson. However, Gillick gave his word to Alderson even though the deal had not been finalized. At the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore, Maryland, in a famous incident, Johnson threw a fastball over the head of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk. A similar incident would occur with Larry Walker in the 1997 All-Star Game.
After pitching well in the strike-shortened 1994 season, Johnson won the American League Cy Young Award in 1995 with an 18–2 record, 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts. His .900 winning percentage was the second highest in AL history, behind Johnny Allen, who had gone 15–1 for the Cleveland Indians in 1937. Johnson, who also finished second in the 1993 and 1997 Cy Young voting, and third in 1994, was the first Seattle Mariners pitcher to win the award, and the only one until Félix Hernández took home the honor in 2010.
Johnson capped the Mariners' late season comeback by pitching a 3-hitter in the AL West's one-game playoff, crushing the California Angels' hopes with 12 strikeouts. Thus unable to start in the 5-game ALDS series against the Yankees until the third game, Johnson watched as New York took a 2–0 series lead. Johnson beat the Yankees in Game 3 with 10 strikeouts in 7 innings.
When the series went the full five games, the Mariners having come back from an 0–2 deficit to win both games at the Kingdome, Johnson made a dramatic relief appearance in the series final, Game 5, on only one day's rest. Entering a 4–4 game in the ninth inning, Johnson pitched the 9th, 10th, and 11th innings. He allowed 1 run, struck out 6, and held on for the series-ending win in Seattle's dramatic comeback.
Johnson posted an 0–6 playoff record in his next four playoff series, each of which his teams lost.
Johnson was sidelined throughout much of the 1996 season with a back injury, but he rebounded in 1997 with a 20–4 record, 291 strikeouts, and a 2.28 ERA (his personal best). Between May 1994 and October 1997, Johnson had gone 53–9, including a 16–0 streak that fell one short of the AL record. Johnson had two 19-strikeout starts in 1997, on June 24 and August 8.
When the 1998 season began, Johnson was upset the Mariners would not offer him a contract extension, given his contract was expiring after the season. Though the Mariners initially wanted to keep Johnson, turning down a trade offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, they fell out of contention, going 8-20 in June. Minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, on July 31, the Mariners traded Johnson to the Houston Astros for three minor leaguers, Freddy García, Carlos Guillén, and John Halama.
Houston Astros (1998)
In 11 regular-season starts with the Astros, Johnson had a 10–1 record, a 1.28 ERA, and 116 strikeouts in 84⅓ innings, and pitched 4 shutouts. Johnson finished 7th in the National League Cy Young voting despite pitching only 2 months in the league, and helped Houston win their second straight National League Central division title. During the playoffs, however, the Astros lost the 1998 NLDS to the San Diego Padres, 3–1. Johnson started Games 1 and 4, both losses. He only gave up three earned runs combined in the two games, but received only one run in support (in Game 4).
Arizona Diamondbacks (1999–2004)
Johnson agreed to a four-year contract, with an option for a fifth year, for $52.4 million, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a second-year franchise. Johnson led the team to the playoffs that year on the strength of a 17–9 record and 2.48 ERA with 364 strikeouts, leading the majors in innings, complete games and strikeouts. Johnson won the 1999 NL Cy Young Award and Warren Spahn Award as the best left-handed pitcher in MLB. Johnson joined Gaylord Perry and Pedro Martínez as the only pitchers to have won the Cy Young Award in both the American and National Leagues. (Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, and Max Scherzer have since done so.)
Johnson finished 2000 with 19 wins, 347 strikeouts and a 2.64 ERA, and won his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award and Warren Spahn Award. The Diamondbacks acquired Curt Schilling from the Philadelphia Phillies in July 2000, and the two aces anchored the Diamondbacks rotation.
In the fourth year of the franchise's existence, Johnson and Schilling carried the Arizona Diamondbacks to their first World Series appearance and victory in 2001 against the New York Yankees. Johnson and Schilling shared the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, the Babe Ruth Award, and were named Sports Illustrated magazine's 2001 "Sportsmen of the Year." For the first of two consecutive seasons, Johnson and Schilling finished 1–2 in the Cy Young balloting. Johnson also won his third consecutive Warren Spahn Award. Johnson's performance was particularly dominating, striking out 11 in a 3-hit shutout in game 2, pitching seven innings for the victory in Game 6 and then coming on in relief the following day to pick up the win in Game 7. Of Arizona's eleven post-season wins in 2001, Johnson had five.
Johnson's Game 7 relief appearance was his second of the 2001 season; on July 19, a game against the Padres was delayed by two electrical explosions in Qualcomm Stadium. When the game resumed the following day, Johnson stepped in as the new pitcher and racked up 16 strikeouts in 7 innings, technically setting the record for the most strikeouts in a relief stint.
In a freak accident on March 24, 2001, during the 7th inning of a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants, Johnson threw a fastball to Calvin Murray that struck and killed a dove. The bird swooped across the infield just as Johnson was releasing the ball. After being struck, the bird fell amid a "sea of feathers." The official call was "no pitch."
Johnson struck out 20 batters in a game on May 8, 2001 against the Cincinnati Reds. Johnson recorded all 20 strikeouts in the first nine innings, but because the game went into extra innings, it was not categorized by MLB as an "official" 20-strikeout game. On August 23, 2001, Johnson struck out three batters on nine pitches in the 6th inning of a 5–1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, becoming the 30th pitcher in major league history to pitch an immaculate inning.
In 2002, Johnson won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and was voted his fourth consecutive Cy Young and Warren Spahn Awards. It was Johnson's fourth consecutive 300-strikeout season with the Diamondbacks, and fifth consecutive overall, extending his own MLB record from the previous season in which he set the record for the most consecutive seasons with 300 or more strikeouts in a season by a pitcher. He also became the first pitcher in baseball history to post a 24–5 record.
Johnson spent the majority of the 2003 season on the disabled list and was ineffective in the few injury-hampered starts he did make. One thing he did accomplish that year was hitting his first career home run in a September 19, 2003 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was the only home run to date for Johnson, a career .125 hitter.
On May 18, 2004, Johnson pitched the 17th perfect game in baseball history. At 40 years of age, he was the oldest pitcher to accomplish this feat. Johnson had 13 strikeouts on his way to a 2–0 defeat of the Atlanta Braves. The perfect game made him the fifth pitcher in Major League history (after Cy Young, Jim Bunning, Nolan Ryan, and Hideo Nomo) to pitch a no-hitter in both leagues. Johnson struck out Jeff Cirillo of the San Diego Padres on June 29, 2004 to become only the fourth MLB player to reach 4,000 strikeouts in a career.
He finished the 2004 season with a 16–14 record, though his poor record was partially due to a lack of run support as his ERA that year was 2.60. Johnson led the major leagues in strikeouts (with 290). In the games where Arizona scored three or more runs, Johnson was 13–2. As his team only won 51 games that year, his ratio of winning 31.3% of his team's games was the highest for any starting pitcher since Steve Carlton in 1972 (who won 27 of the Phillies' 59 wins for an all-time record ratio of 45.8%).
New York Yankees (2005–2006)
The Diamondbacks traded Johnson to the New York Yankees for Javier Vázquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and cash in January 2005. Johnson pitched Opening Day for the Yankees on April 3, 2005 against the Boston Red Sox. Johnson was inconsistent through 2005, allowing 32 home runs; however, he regained his dominance in late 2005. He was 5–0 against the Yankees' division rival Red Sox and finished the season 17–8 with a 3.79 ERA, and was second in the AL with 211 strikeouts.
In 2005, The Sporting News published an update of their 1999 book Baseball's 100 Greatest Players. Johnson did not make the original edition, but for the 2005 update, with his career totals considerably higher and his 2001 World Championship season taken into account, he was ranked at Number 60.
Johnson was a disappointment in Game 3 of the 2005 Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, allowing 5 runs on 2 home runs in 3 innings. In Game 5 in Anaheim, Johnson made an effective relief appearance after Mike Mussina gave up 5 runs and 6 hits to give the Angels a 5–2 lead, but the Yankees were unable to come back in the series.
After an inconclusive year in pinstripes, New York fans hoped that Johnson would return to his dominant style in his second Yankee season. Johnson began 2006 well, but then he struggled to find form. In between some impressive performances, he allowed 5 or more runs in 7 of his first 18 starts for the season. Johnson was more effective in the second half. Johnson finished the season with a 17–11 record, a subpar 5.00 ERA with 172 strikeouts. It had been revealed at the end of the 2006 season that a herniated disc in Johnson's back had been stiffening him and it was only in his second to last start of the season that he decided to get it checked. This exposure had caused him to miss his last start of 2006. After being given epidural anesthesia and a few bullpen sessions he was cleared to start in game 3 of the ALDS, however he gave up 5 runs in 5 2⁄3 innings.
Second stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2007–2008)
In January 2007, the Yankees traded Johnson back to the Diamondbacks, almost two years to the day that Arizona had traded him to New York, for a package of Luis Vizcaíno, Alberto González, Steven Jackson, and Ross Ohlendorf. The Yankees' decision to trade Johnson was primarily based on his pre-season request to be traded after the death of his brother. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was very sympathetic to Johnson's grief and agreed to trade him back to the Diamondbacks so that Johnson could be closer to his family in Phoenix.
Johnson missed most of April, rehabilitating his injured back before returning on April 24, 2007. Johnson allowed six runs in 5 innings and took the loss, but struck out seven. He returned to form, and by his tenth start of the season was among the NL's top ten strikeout pitchers. But on July 3, his surgically repaired disc from the previous season was reinjured. Johnson had season-ending surgery on the same disc, this time removing it completely. Reporting that the procedure went "a little better than expected", Arizona hoped that Johnson would be ready for the 2008 season.
Johnson made his season debut on April 14, 2008 against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park eight months following his back surgery. On June 3, 2008, Johnson struck out Mike Cameron of the Milwaukee Brewers for career strikeout number 4,673. With this strikeout Johnson surpassed Roger Clemens for the number two spot on the all-time strikeout leaders list. Johnson struck out 8 in the game but could not get the win as the Diamondbacks lost 7–1.
Johnson got his 4,700th career strikeout on July 6, 2008. He finished the season with an 11–10 record and an ERA of 3.91, recording his 100th career complete game in a 2–1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
San Francisco Giants (2009)
On December 26, 2008, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants for a reported $8 million, with a possible $2.5 million in performance bonuses and another $2.5 million in award bonuses. Johnson became the twenty-fourth pitcher to reach 300 wins, beating the Washington Nationals (the team that he first played for when they were known as the Montreal Expos) on June 4 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. He became the seventh left-handed pitcher to achieve the 300 win milestone and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 years to get his 299th and 300th win in consecutive starts, joining Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, and Tom Seaver. Johnson was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder on July 28, 2009. Johnson was activated by the Giants on September 16, 2009, and assigned to the Giants bullpen. On September 19, 2009, Johnson made his first relief appearance in 4 years, facing the Los Angeles Dodgers for 3 batters. At age 46, he was at the time the second oldest player in Major League Baseball, trailing only Jamie Moyer.
On January 5, 2010, he announced his retirement from professional baseball. The Mariners invited Johnson to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Seattle Mariners home opener at Safeco Field on April 12, 2010 and inducted Johnson into the Mariners Hall of Fame on January 17, 2012. The Diamondbacks also invited Johnson and former teammate Curt Schilling to both throw out the ceremonial first pitches for the Arizona Diamondbacks' 10th Anniversary of the 2001 World Series team that defeated the New York Yankees.
|Randy Johnson's number 51 was retired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015.|
In the prime of his career, Johnson's fastball was sometimes clocked over 100 mph (160 km/h), even as high as 102 mph (164 km/h) with a low three-quarters delivery (nearly sidearm). His signature pitch was a slider that broke down and away from left-handed hitters and down and in to right-handed hitters. The effectiveness of the pitch is marked by its velocity being in the low 90s along with tight late break; hitters often believe they were thrown a fastball until the ball breaks just before it crosses home plate. Right-handed hitters have swung through and missed sliders that nearly hit their back foot. Johnson dubbed his slider "Mr. Snappy". In later years, his fastball declined to the 96 mph (154 km/h) range and his slider clocked at around 87 mph (140 km/h). Johnson also threw a split-finger fastball that behaved like a change-up and a sinker to induce ground-ball outs. In a June 27, 2012, appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, Adam Dunn (a left-handed batter) was asked who the best pitcher he faced was. "Honestly, Randy Johnson when he was good. It's hopeless. It's like a hopeless feeling. The first time you face him you feel like he's going to hit you right in the back of the neck when he throws it, like every pitch is going to hit you in the back of the neck. And it ends up down and away for a strike and you just have to trust it's going to be a strike, and heaven forbid he doesn't lose one out there and heaven forbid, there goes your cheek."
- Pitched a no-hitter for Seattle on June 2, 1990, against Detroit
- 10-time All-Star (1990, 1993–95, 1997, 1999–02, 2004)
- Led the league in strikeouts nine times (1992–95, 1999–2002, 2004)
- Led the league in ERA four times (1995, 1999, 2001, 2002)
- Triple crown (2002)
- 5 time Cy Young Award winner (1995, 1999–2002)
- 4 time Warren Spahn Award winner (1999–2002)
- Holds the record for most strikeouts in a relief appearance (16 against San Diego on July 18, 2001)
- Holds the record for highest single season and career strikeout per 9 innings ratio: 13.41 and 10.61
- World Series co-MVP (Curt Schilling, 2001)
- Co-winner of the Babe Ruth Award (Curt Schilling, 2001)
- Pitched a perfect game for Arizona against Atlanta (May 18, 2004) – oldest pitcher to do so in major-league history
- Collected his 300th win in a 5–1 victory against the Washington Nationals on June 4, 2009
- Sports Illustrated MLB All-Decade Team (2009)
- Has defeated every major-league team at least once
- Most strikeouts in a game by a left-handed pitcher, Struck out 20 batters on May 8, 2001 against Cincinnati Reds
- Set American League record for strikeouts in a nine inning game by a left-handed pitcher with 19 against the Oakland Athletics and later the Chicago White Sox in 1997
- Won 16 consecutive decisions from 1995-1997
- 4,875 strikeouts, most all time for lefthanded pitcher; 2nd most ever (Nolan Ryan, 5,714)
- Named to the Mariners Hall of Fame
- Pitched two immaculate innings (September 2, 1998 against the Atlanta Braves and August 23, 2001 against the Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Johnson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on 97.3% of the vote on January 6, 2015, third highest percentage of all time for pitchers.
- Johnson was formally inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26, 2015, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Johnson has four children with his wife Lisa: Sammy (born 1994), Tanner (born 1996), Willow (born 1998), and Alexandria (born 1999). He also has a daughter from a previous relationship, Heather Renee Roszell (born 1989). He is a resident of Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Since retiring from baseball, Johnson has pursued a second career as a photographer.
Johnson is a Christian. Johnson has spoken about his faith saying, "... there's only one way to be on this earth, and that's to be a Christian! ... The Lord's given me the ability to go out and do the things that I do."
In January 2015, Johnson became the Assistant to General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"Big Unit" nickname
During batting practice in 1988, the 6'10" Johnson, then with the Montreal Expos, collided head-first with outfielder Tim Raines, prompting his teammate to exclaim, "You're a big unit!" The nickname stuck.
Throughout much of his career, Johnson held the title of tallest player in MLB history. Former pitcher Eric Hillman and current pitchers Andrew Sisco, Andrew Brackman, and Chris Young have also been measured at 6'10". The title of tallest player, as of 2012[update], is held by Johnson's former Diamondback teammate Jon Rauch, a relief pitcher who is 6'11".
Johnson guest starred in The Simpsons episode "Bart Has Two Mommies", which aired on March 19, 2006. Johnson appeared in the movie Little Big League, playing himself. Johnson also made an appearance in the hit baseball film, "Major League 2".
Johnson appeared in a "Just For Men" commercial where he had a grey beard and his neighbors told him "Your beard is weird." Johnson also appeared in a Right Guard commercial where he fired dodgeballs at Kyle Brandt, who represented odor. Johnson also appeared in several commercials for Nike in 1998. The spots comedically portrayed him taking batting practice (swinging ineptly at balls from a pitching machine) in his hope that he would break Roger Maris' then-single-season record for home runs. He made a cameo appearance in a commercial for MLB 2K9 with teammate Tim Lincecum. Johnson made an appearance in a GEICO insurance commercial.
Johnson has been featured as a playable character in various Backyard Baseball games.
Johnson appeared in the episode "Control" on Franklin & Bash as himself.
- 300 win club
- DHL Hometown Heroes
- 3,000 strikeout club
- Pitchers who have thrown a perfect game
- List of Major League Baseball career hit batsmen leaders
- List of Major League Baseball pitchers who have struck out three batters on nine pitches
- List of Major League Baseball career strikeout leaders
- Major League Baseball titles leaders
- List of Major League Baseball single-game strikeout leaders
- List of Major League Baseball no-hitters
- List of Major League Baseball individual streaks
- List of Major League Baseball career wins leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual ERA leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual strikeout leaders
- List of Major League Baseball annual wins leaders
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Randy Johnson.|
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors), or Retrosheet
- Randy Johnson at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Randy Johnson at the Internet Movie Database
- Randy Johnson: Countdown to 300 Wins
- Randy Johnson Video on ESPN Video Archive
- Randy Johnson Video on FoxSports Video Archive
- Box score of Johnson's perfect game
- CBS Player Page
- SABR BioProject Player Article