Today it was announced that Ken Griffey Jr. got into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a huge Griffey fan. I pretty much grew up with Griffey and watching him play. When he debuted in 1989 I was 9 years old. Back then he was known as “Ken Griffey Sr.’s son”. He was the number 1 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners and there were huge expectations for him. His rookie cards were elusive to collect, especially his Upper Deck rookie card.
I became a Seattle Mariners fan because of Ken Griffey Jr. I had no connections to Seattle (at that point) but I was a huge Griffey fan. I collected his baseball cards. I watched every game I could of him living in Tennessee. I played his video game (which is my favorite baseball game on Super Nintendo) as a teenager for hours on end.
The year that will always stick in my mind was the 1995 season when the Mariners stormed back and made the playoffs and beat the Yankees in the Divisional Round. That season essentially saved baseball in Seattle and eventually led to the building of Safeco Field.
I was sad when he left Seattle and went to Cincinnati to lay with the Reds in 2000. I understood even at the time because he wanted to be closer to his family and it was an opportunity to play on the team that his dad had played on during his heyday. I felt bad for him when he had the injuries when he did that cost him in my mind a shot at the home run record. To this day, I still feel if he had stayed healthy he would’ve been the all time leader.
It was cool that when I got to see my first MLB game in St. Louis it was against the Reds in 2002. Unfortunately, Griffey wasn’t playing at the time but I saw his team. I moved to Seattle in 2005 and lived there for three years and got to see the “House that Griffey Built” in Safeco Field but I never got to see Griffey play baseball in Seattle. Then in 2007 while I was living in Seattle, I saw a video tribute that Griffey gave to Edgar Martinez when Martinez was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Everyone cheered for him. Later in the season, the Reds came to Safeco and he routinely got standing ovations when came up to bat or in the field. I wasn’t able to make it to the ballpark but I watched those games on TV. It wasn’t until 2008 that I got to see Griffey live and in person. By then, he was with the White Sox and I had moved to Kansas City and was in seminary. It looked weird seeing him in a White Sox jersey but I was happy to see him playing in person after all those years.
It made me happy when he resigned with Seattle and spent his remaining time back with the Mariners. I saved up my money and got a Mariners jersey with number 24 and Griffey on the back. Every time the Mariners came into Kansas City to play the Royals I would wear my Griffey jersey and cheer the Mariners (the only time I didn’t cheer for the Royals). I still remember the last series the Mariners played in KC in 2010 before Griffey retired. I watched him take BP and I was right behind home plate down around field level. He was smiling and having a good time and I felt like I was 15 again watching him perform.
It was inevitable that he would be elected into the Hall of Fame today but he got in. All but three writers had him on their ballots (I don’t know why those three didn’t vote him into the hall). To me, he will always be my favorite baseball player. Congrats to you Ken Griffey Jr. and your achievement today. You were a hall of famer in my book for a long time and now you’re officially getting that recognition.