Lost in all of Ken Griffey Jr.’s greatness at the plate was the fact that he was one of the most spectacular defensive center fielders of any era. Whether it was going over – or even through – a wall to make a play, Junior was always willing and more than able.
Let’s break down some of The Kid’s best plays in center.
GRIFFEY TAKES ON GREEN MONSTER
Griffey let us all know early in his career that he was much more than a pretty swing. Junior, who loved to play shallow early in his career, gets a great jump on this patented Wade Boggs’ inside-out drive toward center. Griffey leaps, extends his arm and makes the catch just before crashing into the wall. It’s the first of many plays that would leave Griffey in pain.
JUNIOR BREAKS WRIST, STILL HOLDS ON TO BALL
Speaking of pain, no play hurt more than this one. Griffey chased down this drive off the bat of Kevin Bass that is tailing toward right-center field. As Junior leaps for the ball, he extends his left hand to brace for the impact, which cost him three months of action after breaking his wrist. Randy Johnson’s reaction tells you all you need to know about this play.
THE KID SAYS GOODBYE TO KINGDOME
Griffey was at his best when he needed to climb walls. Junior shows off his impeccable timing and ridiculous balance on this shot by Juan Gonzalez, who takes one deep toward straightaway center field. Griffey plants his right foot into the wall, allowing him to get the height needed to pull off this play in the final game at the Kingdome. Junior did have a flare for the dramatic.
THE KID OF SAY-HEY KID?
Wearing No. 24 and playing center field, the comparisons to Willie Mays were inevitable. Making plays like this didn’t hurt either. Griffey made this over-the-shoulder play numerous times during his career in Seattle. He makes this look almost routine.
‘SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN’
Griffey has proven he could climb walls but what about stick to them? Junior takes off on a dead run after Ruben Sierra’s drive toward right-center field. With no time to brace himself, Griffey leaps into the wall and makes the catch with his arms and legs planted into the wall. Again, Junior hobbles away.
YANKEE STADIUM SENSATION
Griffey made his best play in the House that Ruth Built. Randy Johnson hung a slider to Jesse Barfield, who tattooed it toward left-center field. Junior, playing his customary shallow center field, takes off after the drive, leaps toward the wall, plants his foot and stretches his arm over the wall to bring it back. Griffey reacts immediately to the play, showing the ball in his left hand as he runs toward the dugout displaying a huge grin. It’s the lone time Griffey showed emotion after a play.
GRIFFEY ON GRIFFEY
But who best to talk about his plays than the man himself? Junior breaks down some of his best plays in this interview shot early in his career.