As Randy Johnson exited the blowout Game 6 of the 2001 World Series after seven innings, manager Bob Brenly shook his hand and asked if he would be available the following night.
You know, just in case.
“I said, ‘Sure, but I don’t know what you are going to get,’ ” Johnson recalled the other day.
If Johnson did not know, the D-Backs would take their chances.
Johnson, of course, gave the D-Backs what he had given all season.
He retired the four batters he faced, stranding an inherited runner to end the eighth inning, and became the winning pitcher in relief when Luis Gonzalez’s looping single concluded a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to secure the World Series victory and a place in expansion team history.
“What gets lost is what Randy did. My goodness,” former general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said recently while reminiscing about the greatest season in D-Backs history.
On zero days of rest, “he came in and was Randy Johnson.”
If anyone deserved to be Game 7 heroes, it was Johnson and Gonzalez.
They were the headliners in a remarkable 2001, when the D-Backs won the World Series as a 4-year-old, the quickest among all expansion franchises.
They succeeded in one of the most stressful times in the nation’s history, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that postponed the season for a week and cast the World Series against the Yankees in a different light.
The Yankees had come to define America’s values as the city carried on followed the devastation of the attacks at the World Trade Center.
Many of the D-Backs visited ground zero on Oct. 29, the day off before Game 3 of the World Series. And, like many others, they were moved when President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch of Game 3 with a flag found at Ground Zero whipping in the breeze off a pole in center field.
“You use words like ‘indescribable’ too often,” Garagiola said of the Series experience. “That was indescribable.”
Johnson won the third of his four consecutive NL Cy Young awards while becoming the first pitcher in the history of major league baseball to strike out 300 batters for four consecutive seasons.
Gonzalez finished third in the NL MVP voting while hitting 57 home runs in a season that for across-the-board offensive production had only been matched by Babe Ruth 80 years earlier.
Free-agent outfielder Reggie Sanders had the best season of his career, hitting 33 home runs and driving in 90 runs in his one year with the D-Backs.
And with accompaniment from Curt Schilling, who was nearly as dominant as Johnson as the Cy Young runner-up, the D-Backs proved under first-year manager Brenly that the power of dominant starting pitching cannot be overstated.
Brenly, who was the D-Backs’ TV analyst in their first three years, mixed and matched lineups, using 123 in the regular season and 15 more in the playoffs, to compensate for injuries to position players Matt Williams, Tony Womack, Greg Colbrunn and Erubiel Durazo, starting pitchers Todd Stottlemyre and Armando Reynoso and closer Matt Mantei.
“It was exciting being a part of that season,” Johnson said.
“Not any one thing stands out. The whole thing was just well put together, from top to bottom. You have to have a locker room full of players willing to do it day in and day out. I was very fortunate to be able to do that in the town that I live in.”