The Big Unit will doubtless be the only Hall-of-Famer to have rocked a greasy, curly mullet in his prime.
With Randy Johnson's retirement yesterday and Edgar Martinez's coming up well short in today's Hall-of-Fame balloting, it appears that it will be the former who will be the first player to have spent a critical portion of his career with the Mariners to enter Cooperstown. Whether Johnson will choose to be enshrined as a Mariner is somewhat uncertain, but we're betting the fact that he came into his own as a Mariner, won his first Cy Young Award in Seattle, and spent more time and earned more wins here than with any other club will end up tilting the windmills in our favor versus Arizona's (where he won four more Cy Youngs and his only World Series).
Johnson is generally regarded as the best left-handed power pitcher in the history of baseball. But what I'll remember him for is his singular appeal to what we'll politely refer to as baseball's black-and-blue-collar subset of fans, referred to in snottier circles as "white trash."
Baseball fans have long loved their chew-dipping, stubbly-faced, beer-drinking, Charlie Hustle honkies. Look no further than Pete Rose and the John Kruk/Lenny Dykstra-led Phillies teams of the early-'90s for evidence of this. But Johnson took that appeal to a deeper, dirtier level, especially when he played for the M's. Plenty of guys wore mullets and mustaches during Johnson's prime, but none combined the two with such extreme enthusiasm as Johnson. His mullet was curly, greasy, and unruly, and his 'stache seemed as though it was ripped off the Marlboro Man's face.
The Big Unit oozed hard-rockin', Camaro-drivin', cigarette-burnin', hot-tub-in-the-garage, Clapper-over-light-switch, vinyl-covers-on-the-couches, chain-wearin' chic. At a time when his Mariner teammates lived in tony Eastside McMansions, Johnson lived in what is now referred to as Newcastle, and what was then referred to as Renton (or Renton-ish, anyway). Add his crater face and intimidating-yet-soft-spoken demeanor to the mix, and he'd have looked just as at home in a workingman's onesy under the hood of your car as on the mound for the M's. That, as much as anything else, cuts to the core of Randy Johnson's appeal.