Ornithologists remember Randy Johnson obliterating that bird with a pitch

Associated Press

Fifteen years ago today was the day Randy Johnson, then with the Arizona Diamondbacks threw a pitch that, against all odds, slammed into a bird which was crossing in between The Big Unit and home plate. The explosion was most impressive. The bird died instantly in a puff of feathers.

Despite the fact that Johnson won 303 games and five Cy Young Awards, struck out nearly 5,000 batters, won a World Series and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he says that more people ask him about that than anything. Says a lot about vivid images, I suppose. In case you never saw it, here are the vivid images. Warning: if you’re a mourning dove, this may be unsettling for you:

We’ve heard Johnson talk about this and most people aware of the incident have talked about it too. But here’s a new twist: today at Newsweek, Douglas Main speaks with several ornithologists about the event, and they provide their insight and expertise. Whether the poor dove knew what was coming. What he/she was doing there in the first place. Some interesting facts about the feather explosion are included too (note: “fright molt” would be an excellent name for a band).

Most of all, however, they share, inadvertently, how freakin’ cold-blooded and hardcore some ornithologists can be:

Michael Wunder, associate professor at the University of Colorado, Denver: I didn’t feel bad for the bird. I’m an ornithologist who studies population demographics, which just means I am interested to know when where and how birds die.

I guess you have to check your emotions at the door if you want to make it on the mean streets of ornithology.