Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame
The moment that has been in the making from the first day he put on a Mariners uniform has become a reality. Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24, with his name on 437 of 440 ballots, a new Hall of Fame record 99.3 percent of the votes. The Kid who grew up in baseball in our own backyard will now take his place amongst the game’s greatest in Cooperstown all but certainly wearing a Mariners cap.
If you had the foresight or the fortune, perhaps you made the trip to Bellingham to see him as a 17 year old take his first swings as a professional. Or perhaps like me two years later you were able to catch a bus in the U-District bound for the Kingdome, where you would buy a ticket in the cheap seats and sneak down for a closer look at who would quickly become the best player in the game. Others around the country would have to be satisfied with SportsCenter highlights. They could buy the posters, the shoes and the video games, but from 1987 to 2000 he was ours.
And he did not disappoint. From the youthful exuberance and smile he displayed from Day 1 to the body-sacrificing wall crashing heroics, to the iconic, picture-perfect swing and the epic sprint from first to home, he was as electric a ballplayer you will ever see and not without a flair for the dramatic. He homered on the first pitch he ever saw at the Kingdome. The back-to-back home runs with his father. He provided over a week of must watch baseball homering in a Major League best eight straight games. He captured the imagination of not just the city of Seattle but baseball fans throughout the country.
To this day, when I travel with the Mariners I will see someone in the crowd wearing a Griffey jersey, no matter the stadium. He was the baseball hero of a generation. There are stories of entire Little League and high school teams wearing their caps backwards like Junior. Countless kids in their backyards had the swing down. No. 24 was the first to go when uniforms were passed out.
Today they get to celebrate No. 24 being selected to the Hall of Fame. Twenty-two big-league seasons, sixth on the all-time home-run list with 630. A unanimous MVP selection in 1997. Thirteen All-Star appearances (top vote-getter in five), winner of seven Silver Slugger awards and 10 Gold Gloves. All without the shadow that was cast on so many of his peers from the same era.
Ken Griffey Jr. did things the right way both on the field and off the field. From hosting countless Make-a-Wish kids to keeping an eye out for anyone who walked into his clubhouse, Junior showed more awareness for those around him than any player I have ever covered. He’s a Hall of Fame baseball player and a Hall of Fame person.
It is a moment we all knew we would see but now it is official. Ken Griffey Jr. may now sign “HOF” next to his name.