Ken Griffey (griffke02)

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George Kenneth Griffey, Jr.
(Junior, The Kid or The Natural)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2016

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Biographical Information[edit]

"The second-best left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder ever born in Donora, Pennsylvania on November 21." -Bill James

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Ken Griffey, Jr. is one of two players to play with his father in the same major league game (Tim Raines, Jr. is the other). He shares not only the same birthday, but also the same birthplace as Hall of Famer Stan Musial. He was raised in Cincinnati, OH, where his father, Ken Griffey, Sr. played for the Cincinnati Reds.

The younger Griffey played baseball at Moeller High School, a Catholic school in Cincinnati better known for its football program. As a Major League Baseball player he often led the majors in major hitting statistics, and was awarded a Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in 10 consecutive seasons, from 1990 to 1999, while playing center field for the Seattle Mariners. Griffey played on the same team as his father with the Mariners in 1990 and 1991.

Griffey's career began with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, when he was only 19 years old and was named to the 1989 Topps All-Star Rookie Team. He won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1997, hitting .304, with 56 home runs and 147 runs batted in. During Griffey's tenure with the Mariners, he established himself as one of baseball's premier players, with the potential of being considered one of the greatest players ever. He was a multi-dimensional player during a time when more and more players usually excelled at either hitting or fielding, but rarely both. Griffey could hit for a high average, batting over .300 for seven of the ten years of the 1990s, and hit with power as well, by hitting 422 home runs during the decade. His abilities in centerfield arguably were paralleled by no one. Griffey often made over-the-shoulder catches, the kind that Willie Mays immortalized during the 1954 World Series, with a play simply known as the Catch. For these reasons, Ken Griffey, Jr. was one of baseball's most respected and well-liked players during the 1990s, as one could routinely see his picture on cereal boxes and television commercials, and he was a mainstay of the All-Star Game during the decade. In 1993, he homered in eight consecutive games, matching a feat only accomplished by Dale Long in 1956 and Don Mattingly in 1987. No one has managed to repeat this since.

Despite his fantastic performance, and seemingly bright future in Seattle, he nonetheless became disenchanted with playing for the Mariners. Publicly, he expressed frustration over what he believed was a lack of commitment to winning from the management of the team. Also, there was speculation that Griffey was very unhappy with Seattle's new Safeco Field, in which it was much more difficult to maintain the level of power he had while playing in the Kingdome. It was reported that Griffey, among other Mariners players, requested the architects of Safeco Field bring the fences closer to home plate. However, much to the players' chagrin, the architects designed a park with a deep center field. This, combined with Safeco being at sea level, and Seattle's generally dense, moisture-laden atmosphere, helped create a "pitcher friendly" ballpark. In the summer of 1999, it was reported that he hit a ball that would likely have been a home run in the Kingdome, but turned into a long fly-out to center in Safeco. Griffey then stormed angrily to the Mariner dugout telephone, called the Mariners' general manager, and demanded to be traded that day. Although Griffey has always denied his concern with baseball records, his behavior seemed to indicate in 1999 that he definitely had his ambitions set towards breaking Hank Aaron's all time home run record.

Griffey ultimately got his wish, and following the 1999 season, he was traded to his father's former team, the Cincinnati Reds, in return for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Antonio Perez, and Jake Meyer. Initially, the future looked extremely bright for him in his new home. It was the city in which he had grown up, and Griffey was reportedly very pleased to be playing on his father's former team. On the open market, he could have made several million dollars more than the contract offered by the small-market and notoriously penurious Reds, thus it was said to show how much he wanted to play for them. However, his contract apparently included significant backloaded payments to be paid until 2024.

The 2000 season began what was generally seen by the media as a decline in Griffey's superstar status. Although his statistics during that season were respectable, they were far below his previous level of play, as he hit .271 with 40 home runs while playing 145 games. From 2001 through 2004, Griffey was plagued by various injuries, and the last three of those years saw season-ending injuries. Many speculate the injuries were a result of a decade of playing on the Kingdome's artificial turf, which players claim was like playing the game on asphalt. Whatever their causes, the injuries forced Griffey to miss 260 out of 486 games from 2002 through 2004. Consequently, he was not nearly the ubiquitous presence he once was.

In 2004, Griffey avoided major injury during the first half of the season and on June 20th became the 20th player to reach 500 career home runs. The 500th home run came on Father's Day in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, with his father Ken Sr. in the stands; that blast also tied him with his father for career hits with 2,143. However, the injury bug struck again just before the All-Star break; he suffered a partial hamstring tear, knocking him out of the All-Star Game and putting him on the disabled list. He did get his 500th home run ball from a fan who was also there for Father's Day with his dad. The fan received many rewards from Griffey.

Griffey finished that season on the disabled list after suffering a complete rupture of his right hamstring in San Francisco on August 11th. The play in question occurred at SBC Park in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Griffey was starting in right field for the first time in his 16-year Major League career when he raced toward the gap to try to cut off a ball before it got to the wall. He slid as he got to the ball, but in the process hyperextended his right leg. He later came out of the game, complaining of "tightness" in the hamstring exacerbated by chilly conditions in San Francisco. But there was far more to it than anyone realized at the time. Shortly after this injury, the Reds' team physician, Timothy Kremchek, devised an experimental surgery dubbed "The Junior Operation" that would use three titanium screws to reattach Griffey's hamstring. For several weeks, Griffey's right leg was in a sling that kept it at a 90-degree angle, and he was not able to move the leg until late October.

After an intense rehabilitation period, Griffey returned for the 2005 season. In April, he hit only .244 with only one homer (on April 30th) and 9 RBI. Starting May 1st, Griffey began a resurgence as he was healthy again. His fluid swing, which depended heavily on excellent lower body strength, returned to its original form, now that his hamstring and calf problems appeared behind him. Junior's 35 home runs were his highest since his first year with the Reds as he slowly moved up the career home run list. He ended the season tied with Mickey Mantle, after having passed Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and Mel Ott during the year. However, early in September, he strained a tendon in his left foot (an injury unrelated to his past hamstring and calf problems), and was listed as day-to-day for several weeks. On September 22nd, with the Reds out of playoff contention, the team decided to bench him for the rest of the season so he could immediately have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and a separate operation to repair scars from his 2004 hamstring operation. Still, his 128 games in 2005 were the most he had played since 2000. Griffey's resurgence was recognized when he was named National League Comeback Player of the Year.

Griffey played in 104 games in 2006, and while his power totals remained similar (27 home runs, 78 RBI in 83 fewer PA), his averages declined, finishing with an OPS+ below the league average (99) for the first time in his career and a batting average of only .252. However, he would have another partial resurgence in 2007. Playing in 144 games (and recording his most at-bats as a Red), Junior started out slowly (with only one home run in April), but caught fire, hitting 10 home runs each in May and June. He was rewarded with his first All-Star starting nod since 2000 as the National League's leading vote-getter. Griffey's numbers declined after the All-Star break, and he only hit 7 home runs after mid-summer, then was shelved with a groin strain in mid-September.

Junior finished the 2007 season with 593 career home runs, 6th all-time. He cracked the 600-home-run barrier on June 10, 2008 against the Florida Marlins, off Mark Hendrickson. He became the 6th player to reach that milestone. Had the chronic injuries of 2001-2004 not limited his progress, the discussion would at that point have been about when he would surpass Hank Aaron's 755 career home runs. However, it was more about whether 2008 would be his last season, given the decline in his defensive play and offensive numbers. Indeed, Griffey was traded to the Chicago White Sox on July 31st, in return for Nick Masset and Danny Richar. His production of a .260 batting average with 3 homers in 41 games was less than the White Sox expected; he did play in three of the four games of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, but his production of 2 singles and a walk in 10 at-bats was underwhelming.

After the 2008, season, Griffey signed as a free agent with the Mariners, going back to his original team to serve as the designated hitter. Once again, the results were disappointing: he only hit .214, with 19 homers and 57 RBI in 117 games in 2009, below-average production for a DH. It was widely expected that this would be his last season, but the Mariners brought him back for another go-round in 2010. If the previous season had been disappointing, this one was downright embarrassing. On the positive side, he had become a four-decade player that year. However, he was hitting only .184 without a home run as June rolled around; more problematic, a newspaper account said that manager Don Wakamatsu had wanted to use him as a pinch-hitter in a game in May, only to find out that he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse. Suddenly, there were loud cries in the media calling for Griffey to retire, and on June 2nd he did just that, bringing an end to a 22-season career. He retired with 630 home runs - 5th on the all-time list at the time - and similarly lofty statistics in other high-profile hitting categories: 1662 runs scored, 1836 RBI, 524 doubles and 2781 hits, to go along with a .284 batting average and a .538 slugging percentage.

As spring training started in 2011, the Mariners announced that they were bringing back Griffey as a special consultant, to work as an instructor in training camp in Peoria, AZ, and then to visit most of the team's minor league affiliates to work with players there during the regular season. Griffey stated: "I'm looking forward to staying very involved with the Mariners, working with the players throughout the organization, staying involved with the community and assisting in other areas. It's an exciting time and I'm appreciative of the opportunity." He was named to the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2013, the 7th person to be so honored.

He first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in its 2016 Election, and as the date for announcing the results approached, speculation began to turn around not whether or not he would be elected on the first ballot - that was a foregone conclusion - but whether he could beat Tom Seaver's record for the highest voting percentage (98.84%). Some writers even speculated that he could become the first unanimous Hall of Famer. That did not happen, but he did receive the highest percentage of votes ever until then, being named of 437 of 440 ballots, or 99.3% of the total. The Mariners decided to mark his election by announcing that his number 24 would be retired by the team on August 6th, the first time the team had retired a number (apart from number 42 retired throughout baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson). Like Robinson's number, Griffey's was retired throughout the Mariners' organization, including the team's minor league affiliates. Griffey was inducted on July 24, 2016 at a ceremony in Cooperstown, NY, together with Mike Piazza. He made an emotional speech about his journey, but also provided a moment of levity by wearing his Hall of Fame cap backwards, in the style which he had made fashionable in the 1990s. In April 2017, the Mariners unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Griffey in full swing, placed in front of the entrance of Safeco Field.

Griffey and his wife Melissa have three children: George Kenneth III ("Trey"), daughter Taryn Kennedy, and adopted son Tevin Kendall. When Trey was born, then-Mariners' G.M. Woody Woodward sent him a player's contract dated 2012. Ken's brother Craig Griffey never made it to the majors. The third generation of Griffeys is also extremely gifted athletically, although not in baseball. Trey Griffey concentrated on football as a kid and became one of the top high school wide receivers in the country, then attended the University of Arizona on a football scholarship, playing in the 2015 Fiesta Bowl. For her part Taryn was a standout basketball player in high school. The Mariners did select Trey Griffey in the 2016 amateur draft, fittingly in the 24th round in homage to Ken's uniform number. There was little chance of ever seeing a third Griffey generation in a Mariners uniform, though, as Trey had not played the game since before high school in order to concentrate on the gridiron. In 2020, Griffey became a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer and in 2021 he bought a minority share of the Mariners.

He is credited with starting the tradition of players wearing the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. He first asked that his regular number, 24, be changed to 42 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Robinson's debut in 1997. This was not a problem at the time, but it was also the day that Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the number was being retired throughout baseball in Jackie's honor. Ten years later, in 2007, Griffey wanted to use the number again, but now needed permission to do so. He asked Selig directly and, after consulting with Robinson widow, Rachel, the Commissioner granted him permission but also extended it to other players wishing to also pay tribute to Robinson by wearing the number that day. Many did, and two years later, the practice was made universal.

In 2007, he was voted onto the Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove Team. He appeared in The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". He recorded "The Way I Swing" with rapper "Kid Sensation" in 1990. This is on the "Power of Rhyme" CD.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1989 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 13-time All-Star (1990-2000, 2004 & 2007)
  • AL MVP (1997)
  • 1992 All-Star Game MVP
  • 2005 NL Comeback Player of the Year
  • 10-time AL Gold Glove Winner (1990-1999)
  • 7-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1991, 1993, 1994 & 1996-1999)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1997)
  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1997)
  • 2-time AL Total Bases Leader (1993 & 1997)
  • 4-time AL Home Runs Leader (1994, 1997, 1998 & 1999)
  • AL RBI Leader (1997)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 15 (1990-1994, 1996-2001 & 2004-2007)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 9 (1993, 1994, 1996-2000, 2005 & 2007)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 7 (1993, 1994 & 1996-2000)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1997 & 1998)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 8 (1991-1993 & 1996-2000)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (1993 & 1996-2000)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2016

1996 1997 1998
Juan Gonzalez Ken Griffey, Jr Juan Gonzalez

Records Held[edit]

  • Home runs, center fielder, season, 56, 1998 (tied with Hack Wilson)
  • Most home runs without ever reaching World Series, 630
  • Consecutive games with a home run, 8, 1993 (tied)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Associated Press: "Griffey, a favorite son of Pacific Northwest, awaits Hall", USA Today Sports, January 1, 2016.[1]
  • Michael Clair: "What if Griffey had accepted that Mets trade? Let's travel to an alternate reality",, December 27, 2021. [2]
  • Paul Daugherty: "Griffey saved best for last", USA Today, July 22, 2016. [3]
  • Alyson Footer: "Griffey looks spiffy; percentage junior to none?: Voters feel outfielder may surpass Seaver's record of 98.84 percent",, January 5, 2016. [4]
  • Alyson Footer: "How Griffey inspired wearing No. 42 on JRD",, April 14, 2021. [5]
  • Greg Johns: "The Kid is Hall right: Griffey to Cooperstown: Former Mariners outfielder receives record 99.3% of vote",, January 6, 2016. [6]
  • Greg Johns: "Griffey ready to accept place in baseball history: Electee soaking up experience in Cooperstown ahead of Sunday's induction",, July 23, 2016. [7]
  • Greg Johns: "Hall of Family: Griffeys soak up induction: Three generations on hand for Junior's emotional speech",, July 24, 2016. [8]
  • Greg Johns: "'Unbelievable ride': Seattle retires Griffey's 24",, August 6, 2010. [9]
  • Sweeny Murti: "Is this the most unbreakable HR record?",, January 28, 2024. [10]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza deliver emotional Hall of Fame speeches", USA Today Sports, July 25, 2016. [11]
  • Manny Randhawa: "It was billed as an all-time heist. The real story of Griffey to the Reds: 22 years ago, Cincinnati landed its hometown Kid",, February 9, 2022. [12]
  • Tracy Ringolsby: "Griffey's path toward Hall started as wunderkind", mlb,com, January 3, 2016. [13]
  • Tracy Ringolsby: "Scout recalls Griffey's early brilliance",, January 7, 2016. [14]

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