Emotional Griffey joins Mariners Hall
Ken Griffey Jr. gave Seattle and the Mariners more than a decade of thrills. On Saturday night, they gave him their eternal love.
And Jay Buhner gave him the finger.
Seattle fans showed Junior just how much they adore him Saturday as he was inducted into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame. The crowd cheered, Junior teared, and it was 1995 all over again.
Griffey broke down more than once, first when son Trey sent him a message from Arizona where he’s preparing to play his first season of football for the Wildcats — ”I can’t be more proud of you and the way you did it” — and again when Griffey spoke about his former teammates, including fellow outfielder Buhner.
”There is no other person in the world, other than my parents, that if something happened to me or my wife, that I would want to raise my kids,” Griffey said.
Buhner dabbed at his eyes with his tie and, when Junior flipped him a pack of tissues, showed his love by flipping him the bird. Watch in the video below.
Griffey kept telling stories, continued to acknowledge his appreciation to the fans and reminisced about his career, even as the scheduled game time came and went.
On this night, no one was going to stop the greatest player to ever wear the team’s uniform.
Griffey became the seventh member of the team’s Hall of Fame during an emotional ceremony that’s likely just a precursor for when he is inducted in Cooperstown in the future.
What was supposed to be a ceremony lasting about 30 minutes instead went on for nearly an hour. Griffey spoke for nearly 25 minutes in an unscripted speech and nobody seemed to mind its length.
Griffey joins late Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus, and former teammates Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Buhner, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson in being honored by the team.
But Griffey is clearly the head of the class.
”I am truly honored and humbled to be associated with these people here,” Griffey said.
The current Mariners roster — coaches and players — all stood on the railing of the first base dugout for the ceremony with their hats backward, a nod to the unique style Griffey brought to baseball. Naughty by Nature’s ”Hip Hop Hooray” — Griffey’s walk-up music for much of his career in Seattle — blared over the speakers and No. 24 jerseys were worn throughout the stands.
Griffey entered through center field as the outfield walls parted. He walked across a "24" painted in the outfield grass, and with each stride closer to his seat in front of home plate, the roar only grew. The roof of Safeco Field was closed about 10 minutes before the ceremony began due to storms in the area, but the roof only amplified the adulation.
There were no boos, even when the Mariners’ polarizing ownership was briefly introduced.
”I can honestly say I am thankful to be part of the Seattle Mariners,” Griffey said.
The pregame ceremony capped a two-day celebration of Griffey’s career. He spent 13 of his 22 seasons in the majors with the Mariners and was the face of the franchise for most of the 1990s. He was drafted by Seattle in 1987 with the No. 1 overall pick, made his debut at the major league level two years later and went on to have one of the finest careers in baseball history.
Griffey finished with 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and was a 13-time All-Star and the 1997 American League MVP.
As during his playing days, Griffey tried to direct the attention away from himself during Saturday’s ceremony. He talked about all the other members he was joining in being honored by the club rather than putting the focus on his playing career.
He cracked jokes about Johnson and Davis, called Martinez the best right-handed hitter he ever played with and marveled at Wilson’s fire playing the game.
But his most heartfelt messages were for Niehaus’ wife, Marilyn, and Buhner. Griffey said he was honored that Niehaus called home run No. 1 and homer No. 630 in his career.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.