2001 Sportsman of the Year
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By the Numbers Chart Tale of the Tape Photo Gallery Stephen Cannella Tom Verducci Raising Arizona Power Couple

 December 18 cover
Photograph by Brian Lanker
Theirs is not only a triumph of teammates. It is also a triumph of friends. What is athletic greatness if it doesn't have contagious properties? Only as evanescent as the smoke of a fine cigar. The truly great ones in team sports make those around them better and, ultimately, make them champions. What Johnson and Schilling did this year was take that force and raise it to the power of two.

Text by Tom Verducci
Issue date: December 17, 2001

Video Box: Behind the scenes at the Sportsman photo shoot

After making their major league debuts eight days apart back in September of 1988, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson both went on to pitch for four different teams over 14 seasons, eventually winding up as teammates on the Arizona Diamondbacks, a club they would jointly lead to a World Series victory in only its fourth year of existence. You could say the D-Backs' championship run began in earnest on July 26, 2000, when they acquired 34-year-old Schilling from the Phillies, forming a virtually untouchable dynamic duo. During the 2001 regular season Johnson, a 38-year-old left-hander, reached a career high in wins with a 21-6 record and led the majors with a 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts, the third-most thrown in a season. He reached the 300-K mark for the fourth consecutive year, a major league first, and climbed to ninth (3,412) on the all-time strikeout list. Despite these stellar numbers, Johnson's 2-6 record from postseasons past left some wondering whether he could perform when it mattered most. Going into the playoffs, it was the right-handed Schilling, with his 22-6 record, 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts, who was considered Arizona's go-to guy. Schilling was brilliant in the Division Series against the Cardinals, going 2-0 with 18 Ks and one earned run in 18 innings of work. The 6-foot-10 Johnson finally got the monkey off his back in the NLCS against Atlanta, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 19 strikeouts. The pair may have dealt some lethal blows in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but it was in a thrilling World Series against the defending champion New York Yankees that the most devastating one-two punch in baseball scored the knockout. After Schilling shut down the Bombers to get the Game 1 win, Johnson emerged as the D-Backs' dominator. With victories in Games 2, 6 and 7, the Big Unit became the first pitcher to secure three wins in the Fall Classic since Detroit's Mickey Lolich in 1968 and the first ever with five victories in a single postseason. With ERAs of 1.04 and 1.69, respectively, Johnson and Schilling were named co-World Series MVPs, only the second time in history the award has been split. The pair also finished 1-2 in the NL Cy Young voting, the first time since 1956 starting pitchers from the same team have taken the top two spots. Receiving 30 of 32 first-place votes, Johnson won in a landslide to take the honor for the fourth time in his career and become only the second pitcher to win three consecutive Cy Youngs. Said Arizona manager Bob Brenly of his pair of aces, "I don't believe there have ever been two pitchers who dominated all season long the way they have."

  • CNNSI's complete 2001 World Series coverage
  • Sports Illustrated, November 12, 2001: Desert Classic
  • Tom Verducci: Greatness on display
  • Stats: Curt Schilling | Randy Johnson

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