Griffey made his major-league debut on April 3, 1989, and went 1 for 3 with a double. Just one week later, he hit the first of 630 career homers, this one a solo shot off White Sox right-hander Eric King in his first career at-bat at the Kingdome. Junior finished his rookie season with a .264 batting average, 16 homers and 61 RBI – good enough for third in the AL rookie of the year voting.
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All in the family
On Aug. 31, 1990, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. made history by becoming the first father-son duo to play as teammates. The Mariners signed the 40-year-old Griffey Sr. five days after he was released by the Reds, reuniting him with his 20-year-old son. As cool as that moment was, the real highlight came a couple weeks later. On Sept. 14, 1990, the Griffeys hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Angels right-hander Kirk McCaskill.
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History on a holiday
What better day for Griffey to join the 500-home run club than Father’s Day? On June 20, 2004, Griffey led off the sixth inning with a drive into the right-field seats against Cardinals’ right-hander Matt Morris for his 19th homer of the season and 500th of his career. With that swing, Junior became just the 20th member of the exclusive club. And, of course, dad was watching near the Reds’ dugout in the Busch Stadium stands.
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And then came 600
Before many of the fans had even settled into their seats at Dolphin Stadium on June 9, 2008, Griffey was rounding the bases into history. Griffey took Marlins lefty Mark Hendrickson deep for a two-run shot in the first inning. Griffey became only the sixth player ever to reach the 600 plateau, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa. Less than two months later, Griffey was dealt from the Reds to the White Sox.
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Eight is enough
Not only was Griffey armed with one of the sweetest swings, he also had one of the most powerful. That was on full display in the summer of 1993 when he tied a major-league record by homering in eight straight games. The streak began at Yankee Stadium, continued at Cleveland Stadium and ended at the Kingdome. Interestingly, five of the eight homers he hit were solo shots (one other was a grand slam). During the Home Run Derby that summer, Junior became the first player to hit the B&O Warehouse beyond the right-field wall at Camden Yards.
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Safe in Seattle
In the decisive Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees, Griffey homered in the eighth inning to bring the Mariners within a run and then slide home safely -- scoring from first base on Edgar Martinez’s double -- with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th. Junior hit .391 with five homers and seven RBI in the series and was all smiles and his teammates piled on him at the plate to celebrate the clincher.
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Love for the glove
Few players were more gifted (or entertaining) defensively than Griffey, who routinely laid himself out on the turf/grass and showed reckless abandon even when faced with an outfield wall. He won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, owning an entire decade (1990-99). But his aggressive style of play also contributed to injuries; his famous “Spider-Man” catch in May 1995 resulted in him breaking his left wrist. There seemingly was no wall he couldn’t go through or over.
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A year for the books
During the 1997 season, Griffey led the majors with 147 RBI and led the AL in homers (56), runs (125), intentional walks (23) and slugging percentage (.646). It was the first of back-to-back seasons with 56 homers and at least 146 RBI. And it resulted in Griffey unanimously winning the AL MVP Award.
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The Kid says farewell
After 630 homers, 10 Gold Gloves, 13 All-Star appearances, three Home Run Derby titles and nearly 3,000 hits, Griffey shocked the baseball world by retiring before the Mariners were to host the Twins on June 2, 2010. His final at-bat -- a groundout -- came in a game on May 31. In his age-40 season, Griffey simply wasn’t the same player (.184 average, no homers in 33 games) and chose to walk away on his own terms. And he did so as the Mariners’ all-time leader in home runs, slugging percentage, WAR and intentional walks.