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15 years ago Saturday, Randy Johnson's legendary D-backs career began

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The prize of the 1998-99 free-agent class was dominant starter, wildlife photographer and, as you see above, person in whose hands baseballs look the size of tangerines Randy Johnson. The Angels, Dodgers and Rangers all made substantial offers, but ultimately it was the D-backs who won the right to sign the 6-foot-10 lefty to a 4 year, $52 million contract.

Arizona was coming off an inaugural season in which they went 65-97 and finished in last place, so the signing was rather surprising. Johnson was counting on the D-backs to build a contender quickly, and that's exactly what they did. Of course, his contributions were a large part of that. Here he is tossing a complete game to clinch the NL West title the team won in 1999, his first year with them:

Even though he was already 35 when he signed, Johnson won Cy Young Awards in each of his first four seasons with Arizona. His acquisition was a pivotal moment in D-backs history, and when fellow ace Curt Schilling arrived via trade in 2000, the duo propelled the team to a World Series title in '01, only three years after the franchise's inception.


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