March 31st, 1998 is when the Arizona Diamondbacks played their very first major league baseball game against the Colorado Rockies. Over the their 20-year history, there has been perfect games, triple plays, three and four homer games, five division titles, one national league pennant, and one world championship. The championship is the only one out of the four major professional sports teams in Arizona. Here is a list of the top ten moments in twenty years of Diamondbacks’ baseball.
#10- A Franchise is Born: You’ve got to start somewhere and in 1995 the MLB awarded the city of Phoenix and Jerry Colangelo a franchise. Almost three years later under the leadership of Colangelo, general manager Joe Garagiola jr. and manager Buck Showalter, Arizona began their first season in 1998 in the big leagues.
#9- A First Time for Everything: On September 24th, 1999 behind a complete game by Randy Johnson, the D-backs defeated the San Francisco Giants 11-3. Johnson had eleven strikeouts in the victory. Leading the way on offense was Luis Gonzalez who went three-for-five in the win. The win over the Giants captured their first National Western Division championship in team history.
#8- Luis Gonzalez Goes for the Cycle: Against the Houston Astros, Luis Gonzalez became the first Diamondback to hit for the cycle. With a double in the first, single in the third, triple in the eighth, and finally a homer in the ninth helping the Diamondbacks to a 12-9 victory over the Astros in 2000.
#7- 57 Homers in 2001: It was a magical season in 2001 for Arizona and even more for outfielder Luis Gonzalez. Gonzo would set career highs in home runs (57), runs batted in (142), and posted a .325 batting average. During the month of April, he would hit thirteen long bombs, tying the record at that time set by Ken Griffey Jr. for most home runs in the month of April. Gonzalez would also take home the home run derby crown in 2001 defeatingChicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
#6- 42 Scoreless Innings: In 2007, Brandon Webb posted a for 42-inning scoreless streak. The 2006 National League Cy Young winner recorded the sixth longest scoreless streak record in MLB history from July 20th to August 17th in 2007.
#5- Anybody Anytime: The 2007 Diamondbacks were known as “The Baby Backs” with a lot of young players on the roster. They were supposed to finish last in their division as they surprised the baseball world winning the NL West with a 90-72 record. The Diamondbacks kept the momentum in the playoffs sweeping the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately, they lost momentum in the championship series against the divisional rival Colorado Rockies as they were swept. They still proved that with a good mix of veterans and young players that anything is possible. The team had one simple motto: “Anybody Anytime”.
#4- Randy Johnson Signs with Arizona: In 1999, Arizona signed their first big time free agent in the 6’10 hard throwing lefty with a four-year deal worth 52 million. Johnson would go on to win four straight CY Young awards during that four year span. He would win no less than 17 games each of those four years, helping the Diamondbacks win the NL West in 1999, 2001, and 2002. Johnson also helped the Diamondbacks capture the 2001 World Series and shared the MVP award with fellow starting pitcher Curt Schilling. Johnson would return to the Diamondbacks in 2007 and would have his number 51 retired by the team. He is also the only Diamondback to be enshrined in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. The signing of Johnson is considered one of the best signings in team history.
#3- 20 Ks: On May 8, 2001 against the Cincinnati Reds at the old Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona, Randy Johnson became the third pitcher in major league history behind (Roger Clemens in 1986 and 1996), (Kerry Wood in 1998) to have 20 strikeouts in a single game. Johnson pitched nine innings allowing only three hits striking out 20 Reds’ players, keeping a 1-1 game heading to extra innings. The Diamondbacks would walk it off in the 11th inning with a 4-3 victory.
#2- A Perfect Game: On May 18th, 2004 against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, Johnson became the 17th pitcher in league history to pitch a perfect game. This was Johnson’s second career no-hitter and first perfect game of his career. Johnson at the age of 40 was the oldest pitcher to ever pitch a perfect game passing the CY Young’s record of 37 years old. The Big Unit recorded 13 strikeouts in the perfect game and this was also the first perfect game in Arizona Diamondbacks’ history.
#1 A Crowning Moment: The Diamondbacks became the fastest expansion team to reach the World Series and their opponent was the New York Yankees in 2001. The Yankees entered the 2001 World Series looking to captured their fourth consecutive pennant. Arizona won the first two games in Phoenix. Game three featured George W. Bush as he threw out the first pitch. As he was leaving the field, he gave a thumbs up to the New York crowd. The emotionally charged Yankees would take the next three games in New York. The World Series was not too far after the tragic 9/11 events.
In game six, Arizona turned to Randy Johnson to save the season, but it was the Diamondbacks offense that came alive putting up 15 runs, defeating the Yankees 15-2 tying the series at three a piece. In game seven, Curt Schilling dueled Roger Clemens all game until Alfonso Soriano’s homer in the eighth inning gave the Yanks a 2-1 lead. Going into the bottom of the ninth, the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera entered the game to close it out and give the Yankees their four consecutive world championship. The D-backs had other ideas as Tony Womack’s double tied the game at two. With the bases loaded, Luis Gonzalez went against Rivera and blooped a base hit over the drawn infield, scoring Jay Bell and giving the Diamondbacks their first championship in team history. Schilling and Johnson would be named World Series Co-MVP. The 2001 World Series is considered as one of the greatest World Series in league history.
Arizona Diamondbacks Fun Facts
Luis Gonzalez team leader in hits (1,337), runs (780), home runs (224), runs batted in (774), and games played with (1,194)
Randy Johnson team leader in wins (118), strikeouts (2,077), and shutouts (14)
Jose Valverde team leader in saves with (98)
Retired jerseys: Randy Johnson (51) and Luis Gonzalez (20)