On Saturday, “The Kid” will get inducted into his first Hall of Fame, this one belonging to the Seattle Mariners.
Cincinnati Reds fans got to see over 200 of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630 career home runs, but many did not get to see the plays that really made Junior a household name.
In honor of his induction to the Mariners Hall of Fame, I have put together my list of Junior’s greatest moments while wearing a Mariners uniform. We all know what made him worthy of a chance with the Reds Hall of Fame, but these are the plays that endeared Junior to the fans of his west coast home, Seattle.
(We look forwarding to adding a Cincinnati Reds edition upon his inevitable induction into our own Hall of Fame.)
10. “The First Homer” April 10th, 1989
First game at home in the Kingdome, first pitch he sees in the home opener, gone. Home run number one. Eric King deposited a pitch over the plate and before he knew it, Junior had deposited it in to the right field seats.
I think it is safe to say that no one in the stands that day quite knew what type of career was ahead of the young 19-year old smiley kid from Cincinnati. But, if we had, there may be a few more saved ticket stubs from that home opener.
It may just be one home run, but it was the first of 630. The first of one of the greatest careers ever.
9. “The Catch” April 26th, 1990
Just in his second year, Junior began to show us why he was going to become one of the best defensive players to ever step on the field. Not only did Junior somehow vault off the wall to make the catch, but what sometimes gets overlooked, is how far he traveled to catch this ball. This was not one of those skyscrapers that hang in the air forever. It took everything he had to get to that ball on time.
This catch also provided us with one of the first times we saw Junior’s classic smile. Still a youngster by major league standards, The Kid made the catch and showed us all the love he has for baseball flashing those pearly whites all the way in to the dugout.
8. “A Decade of Gold” 1990-1999
Most players hope that in their career they can be lucky enough to win just one Gold Glove. Well, Ken Griffey Jr. won ten, in ten years.
Junior was the epitome of a five-tool player during his time in Seattle. And, although what most of us remember are the tape measure home runs he hit on a nightly basis, a lot of Junior’s more unbelievable moments came in the field.
For those of us who never got to see Willie Mays play in his prime, it was nice to have Junior come in and show us how centerfield is done.
7. “The MVP” 1997
The Seattle Mariners had gone their first 20 years in existence without being able to crown an American League MVP. After a `97 season filled with Mariners’ records 56 homers, 147 RBIs, 93 extra base hits along with a .304 batting average, Ken Griffey Jr. provided the Mariners their first MVP.
It was arguably Junior’s best season as a Mariner and he almost replicated it in 1998 with the only difference being one less RBI, one less extra base hit and a .284 batting average.
Just to help everyone with the math, that is 112 homers in just two years. Seems easy to hit 630 when you can hit 112 in two seasons.
6. “Mr. Home Run Derby” 1994, `98, `99
Everyone always talks about how pure the swing was from Ken Griffey Jr. It is one of the main reasons many baseball lovers took to calling him “The Natural”.
The smooth stroke was what made it so easy for Junior to win home run derbies. Unlike most of the other contestants, hitting the ball out of the park was effortless for Junior. The swing did all the work, and led him to a record three Home Run Derby titles.
Prince Fielder is now threatening the record by becoming the second player with multiple titles in 2012. But, this may be a record of Junior’s that is safe for the time being.
Also, I doubt anyone will be hitting the warehouse anytime soon.
P.S.- I have to give Griffey full credit for making wearing your hat backwards the “cool” thing to do.
5. “Number 400 as a Mariner” April 15th, 2009
This home run carries a lot of weight for a few different reasons. First of all, 400 home runs with one club is an accomplishment most players are not able to tote around on a daily basis.
Second, and probably most importantly is that this home run came on Jackie Robinson day. A little known fact about Junior is that he was the first player to ever wear the number 42 as a sign of tribute to Jackie Robinson.
On April 15th, 1997, Ken Griffey Jr. made a simple change to his normal jersey number by reversing the 24 and making it a 42. Junior did the gesture at the request of the Jackie Robinson foundation, and ended up creating a tradition that will live on till the end of baseball.
4. “The Homer” ALDS Game 5 October 8th, 1995
Sometimes due to what happens later in this game, (which may show up later in the countdown) this Junior home run is an afterthought.
Trailing the New York Yankees 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Griffey stepped up and hit the most meaningful postseason home run in his career.
It is this home run that set the stage for a Mariners’ play that will live in infamy.
3. “Eight Straight” July 28th, 1993
Ken Griffey Jr.’s career is filled with milestone home runs. From hitting number 400 on Father’s Day, to hitting 600 in his home state of Florida, Junior has done it all.
One record that could stay untouchable for a long time is the consecutive games with a home run streak that Junior holds with the great Don Mattingly and Dale Long. Eight consecutive games hitting that little round ball over those far away fences.
Seeing that left arm hang up in the air after a swing might be the best sight in baseball.
2. “Back to Back with Dad” September 14th, 1990
On September 14th, 1990, with Junior watching from the on-deck circle Senior deposited a pitch over the center field fence. In typical dad fashion, Senior threw a dig at his son after crossing home plate saying, “That’s how you do it son,” on his way back to the dugout. Not to be outdone by dad, Junior stepped up to the plate and gave a perfect example of the phrase, “Like father like son.”
Junior got to live every young boy’s fantasy growing up by just getting to play on the same team as his dad. Then, as it seems like Griffeys always do, father and son had to go and become the only tandem to ever hit back-to-back home runs.
There is no question that Junior probably has this moment at the top of his list for the highlights of his career, but for this list it comes second to about the only play capable of topping it.
1. “The Double” October 8th, 1995
In Seattle Mariners’ history this play is legend.
There are few words that can adequately describe what happened that day in the Kingdome. It was simply the perfect play at the perfect time.
The best part about the play is, once again, that smile.
It is a smile that shows the most important thing about baseball, the love of the game. And Junior was never shy to remind us just how much he loved going to work every day.
The Kid provided baseball with some of its’ best moments, and the only words worthy of a career like Ken Griffey Jr.’s come from Hall of Fame Announcer Dave Niehaus himself.