The first 5 baseball players that started my interest in baseball when I was a toddler were Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Randy Johnson, Chipper Jones, and “The Kid”, Ken Griffey Jr. My dad told me about that Babe Ruth was the best player of his era and was second on the all-time home run list (behind Hank Aaron). I’ve used to see “The Big Unit” Randy Johnson on television quite often because how often do you see a 6’10 lefty pitcher? Chipper Jones was always relevant when I was kid. Besides the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs, the Atlanta Braves were known nationwide by fair-weather fans. I have nothing but respect for Chipper.
And then there’s Ken Griffey Jr. He’s easily my favorite player of all time. In his 22 year career, the Center Fielder hit 630 home runs (6th all time) with a .284 batting average. He also has 2,781 hits while knocking in 1,836 runs in his prolific career. Griffey was a 13 time Allstar, American League MVP back in 1997, 10 time Gold Glover (consecutive), and he also was a 7 time Silver Slugger. He led the AL in home runs 4 times and won the home run derby 3 times. I believed his impressive accomplishment was being named to the Major League Baseball All-Century team.
Junior’s stats for his 11 years in Seattle were off the charts, racking up 1,752 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBIs, and 167 stolen bases. The 10 consecutive Gold Gloves all were in a Mariners uniform from 1990-1999.
Griffey has one of the remarkable swings you will see and his defensive abilities were outstanding. Here’s a clip if you need a refresher:
Ken Griffey Jr. Career Highlights
Personally, if it wasn’t for the injuries in Cincinnati (including season-ending injuries in 2002, 2003, and 2004), I believe he would be the all-time home run leader and arguably the greatest player of all time (The Greatest). Growing up, I wanted to play center field and wear number 24 because of him. I wanted his signature shoes. At one point, I wanted to bat left-handed like him even though I’m the opposite.
One of my favorite memories is when he was traded to the Chicago White Sox (Go South Side!) back in 2008. Just knowing one of the most transcending athletes of my generation was on one of my favorite teams and played only 20 to 30 miles away was mind-blowing.
In my eyes, he has first ballot trip to Cooperstown. This man was the complete package you could get from a player. He belongs in the conversation. People who heard of his name knows him by Ken Griffey Jr…and the people who grew up watching him knows him as “The Kid”