The Kid’s all grown up and going to the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame!
In less than two weeks, Ken Griffey Jr. – arguably the best player ever to wear a Seattle Mariners uniform and one of the greatest of all time in the game – will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. It was only a matter of time for Junior to receive this honor and this is only a precursor to his future entry to Cooperstown in 2016. Regardless of the predictability, it will be an exciting and historic day at Safeco Field and it gives me an excuse to relive some of the Mariners’ glory days in expectation of Griffey Day on August 10th.
There are too many great Griffey moments to choose from and there are lots of lists out there, so many of these may sound redundant, but here’s a handful that I remember fondly.
5. Return and Records
Griffey was the Mariners’ number one overall draft pick in 1987 and he went on to have an amazing eleven-year career in Seattle. He left in 1999 for his hometown of Cincinnati and then briefly to Chicago with the White Sox. Then in 2009, he chose to return to Seattle over Atlanta, much to the delight of Mariners fans. After years of injuries, everyone knew the Griffey returning wasn’t the same player who left. But that didn’t matter. This was the Kid who built Safeco Field – one of the main reasons baseball remained in Seattle – and he was coming home for his swan song.
Though the 40-year-old Griffey struggled offensively and retired abruptly in 2010, he ended his illustrious career in a Mariners uniform with 417 home runs as a Mariner, leading the franchise, and 630 career home runs, making him the sixth all-time leader (fourth if you exclude steroid cheaters).
4. Warehouse Home Run
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark. And while it is hallowed ground for another Jr. (Cal Ripken, that is), when I was there in 2012, the first thing as a Mariners fan I thought about was Griffey’s home run off the B&O Warehouse.
In 1993 at the Home Run Derby, Junior placed second behind Juan Gonzalez, who won by two homers. But Gonzalez’s win was overshadowed by Griffey’s 465-foot bomb to right field over Eutaw Street. Commemorated with a bronze baseball-shaped plaque, Griffey is the only player to hit a batted fair ball off the warehouse.
3. 8 in 8
July 28 passed just a few days ago and marked the twentieth anniversary of another impressive record held by Junior: it was the day he hit his eighth consecutive home run in eight games. Griffey hit homers off the New York Yankees (2), Cleveland Indians (4) and Minnesota Twins (2), with only one day off in between the Yankees and Indians series. Only three players – Griffey, Dale Long (Pittsburg Pirates, 1956) and Don Mattingly (New York Yankees, 1987) – hold the major league record for such a streak.
2. Like Father, Like Son Home Runs
It was September 14, 1990 when the Mariners played the California Angels. It was the top of the first inning and Griffey Sr. was hitting in the number two spot with no outs and Harold Reynolds given first base on a walk. On an 0-2 pitch, Griffey Sr. connected with a fastball for a two-run home run over left-center field. It was impressive for the recently acquired 40-year-old. Until his 20-year-old son, Griffey Jr., batting third with no outs, on a 3-0 count, hit a solo-home run to left-center field, just like dad.
It was déjà vu: both number two and number three in the order batted left-handed, had the name “Griffey” on the back of their uniforms, and homered to left-center field. I may be harping on the similarities but it’s only because such an event is so rare and should be admired. The Mariners lost 5-7, but no one remembers that. Instead, that game is remembered as an exclamation mark to the Griffeys’ legacy in the MLB. Griffey Sr. and Jr. were the first father-son duo in the MLB, the first father and son to play as teammates, the first to hit back-to-back singles, and the first to hit back-to-back home runs. They were the first and maybe the last, which makes these records even more impressive and most memorable for father and son.
1. Dog Pile on Griffey
Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees is a classic game in Mariners history that I never get tired of watching. Even though I know how it ends, it’s always a nail-biter. I always wonder what was Yankees’ manager Buck Showalter thinking, keeping David Cone in the game with a pitch count of 140+, bases loaded at the bottom the eighth with only a one-run cushion? Or how did Randy Johnson make walking up to the pitcher’s mound look so cool yet intimidating at the same time?
In truth, that game’s been analyzed to death as one of the Mariners few post-season gems so I won’t go into it. Instead, if you look at the last few seconds of the game, when Griffey rounded third at the bottom of the 11th inning, slid into home before the tag and for the win – when everyone jumped on him and he had that huge grin on his face, that look of pure joy mixed with relief and victory – that’s my favorite Griffey moment because to me, it’s a perfect snapshot of what baseball’s all about.
Honorable Mention: It’s a toss-up between the Griffey cloned/Bugs Bunny commercial or Griffey’s appearance in one of my favorite movies, “Little Big League,” where the Mariners beat the Minnesota Twins for the American League Wild Card tie-breaker.
What are your favorite Griffey moments?