John Kruk made three straight MLB All-Star Games in the ’90s for the Philadelphia Phillies after being dealt by the San Diego Padres. He then went on to have an extensive (if polarizing) career as a talking head and analyst on ESPN.
Randy Johnson is, well, one of the best pitchers of all time. “The Big Unit” stalked the mound and racked up strikeouts with his incredible fastball. Only Nolan Ryan has more career strikeouts than the towering lefty, and he threw multiple no-hitters, including one perfect game. In his second All-Star Game appearance, and Kruk’s third and final appearance, the two crossed paths. The Hall of Fame pitcher struck fear in the first baseman’s heart.
Randy Johnson vs. John Kruk, 1993 ASG
The 1993 MLB All-Star Game took place at the Baltimore Orioles’ new ballpark Camden Yards. Kruk was starting at first base for the National League, while Johnson entered in relief for the American League.
“The Big Unit” would go on to pitch for the likes of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros and New York Yankees, but at the time he was coming into his own with the Seattle Mariners. Kruk stuck in the game long enough to get to face Johnson in an at-bat. He quickly came to regret it.
Johnson, of course, went on to become one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball history, but it took him a little while to get there. He didn’t win his first Cy Young until 1995, and early in his career he was a little wild. That could be a concern for hitters, because the Hall of Famer had an absolutely lethal fastball.
Kruk was a left-hander like Johnson, which came into play on the first pitch he faced. “The Big Unit” lost control of the ball and it soared over Kruk’s head. While he played it up for laughs a bit, including intimating his heart was pounding through his chest, it seems like he was definitely shook, much to the amusement of his teammates in the dugout.
After that first pitch, it seemed like Kruk was happy to get through the at-bat as quickly as possible. He swung wildly at a couple pitches, spinning himself like a top. When the at-bat was over, Kruk seemed relieved. Afterward, Kruk remarked, “That boy throws too hard and he’s too wild. He could kill someone.”
Johnson went on to make MLB history and won a World Series MVP for the Diamondbacks in 2001. His career lasted all the way until 2009, when he pitched a season with the San Francisco Giants. Kruk only played two more seasons, ending his career in 1995 with the Chicago White Sox. For one moment in their respective career paths, they created one of the most-entertaining at-bats in All-Star Game history.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme, and that came to the forefront at the 1997 All-Star Game. Larry Walker, a former teammate of Johnson’s in Montreal, came to the plate to face him. Johnson jokingly sailed a pitch over Walker’s head, calling to mind the matchup with Kruk. Walker took things a step further by flipping his batting helmet around and batting from the right side of the plate.
By the way, if you were curious, the American League won the 1993 All-Star Game by a score of 9-3. Its lineup was stacked with members of the Toronto Blue Jays, including Roberto Alomar, who hit a home run. Nobody really remembers that, though. They remember Johnson throwing over Kruk’s head, and the desperate flails of the bat that followed.