The 40 year old Ken Griffey Jr. retired earlier this week after playing professional baseball since he was 19. He will always be remembered for his time in Seattle, not in Cincinnati. In the late 90’s he was the best player in the game and was in the discussion for possibly being the best all around player ever.

The announcement ends a 22-year run in the major leagues that included 13 all-star selections, 630 home runs, 10 Gold Gloves and a .284 career batting average.

After being drafted straight out of high school he became the face of Seattle. His swing, his super human-like play in center field, his smile and his backward-cap wearing enthusiasm was a match made in heaven for him, fans and advertisers.

He was known, simply, as “Junior.”

He was consistently among the leaders in home runs. He had seasons of 49, 46, 46 and 48 between 1996 and 1999. Fellow major leaguers voted him the player of the decade in 1999. He was on pace to break Hank Aaron’s career home run record.

Then he decided to go back to his hometown. Back to where is dad spent the majority of his career—the Cincinnati Reds. He grew up running around the Big Red Machine’s locker room and played high school ball at the local powerhouse Moeller.

Griffey signed for $116M over 10 years, a monsterous contract at the time. He was joining a team that had won 96 games the year before, a team that was losing relatively little in exchange for the best player in the game.

“Well,” Griffey said at his introductory press conference at Cinergy Field, “I’m finally home. This is my hometown. I grew up here. It doesn’t matter how much money you make; it’s where you feel happy. Cincinnati is the place where I thought I would be happy”.

It was suppossed to be a fariy tale story. Too bad it had a nightmare ending.

After hitting 40 home runs and driving in 118 runs for a 85 win Reds team, the injury bug bit him hard and often.

Injuries limited his output and robbed him of his natural abilities—right shoulder surgery, right knee surgery, left knee surgery, left knee surgery twice, hamstring surgery and five or six drainage procedures after the hamstring surgery.

In 2002, his worst season ever, injuries limited him to 70 games and eight homers. In 2003, early in the season, Griffey dislocated his right shoulder while diving in the outfield, an injury that held him to just 166 at-bats. After four years with the Reds, Griffey had played in only 58 percent of games, and hit no higher than .286.

His pre-30s numbers (398 homers and a .300 average) weren’t even close to his numbers in his 30s (.263 and 83 homers).

In 2004, Griffey played well enough to earn his 12th starting selection to the All-Star team. In early July he collected his 500th career homer. But in mid-July he suffered a tear in his right hamstring. Two days after he returned from the injury he completely tore the same hamstring when he attempted to make a sliding catch. Less than a week later he had season-ending surgery to fuse the tendon to the bone.

The player of the 90s simply grew old and frail as his days with the Reds went on. The team never finished above .500 after 2000. The fans tired of the constant injuries and they voiced their displeasure with . He got in a verbal dispute with one of the radio commentators and he even gave a fan the bird in Cincinnati.

In 2007, he was moved to right field. In 2008, he hit just .245 until the team traded him to the White Sox for relief pitcher Nick Masset and Triple-A second baseman Danny Richar. Griffey’s contract gave him the right to refuse the deal.

The Reds organization has nothing bad to say about him.

“He was always happy, always in a good mood”, said former teammate Bronson Arroyo. “I enjoyed him because he always didn’t talk baseball. I’d talk to him about flying his plane. He was always like a kid in that he was enthusiastic about things he was passionate about. That’s first and foremost as far as what I remember about him.”

“I’m glad he retired on his terms,” said manager Dusty Baker.

From all accounts, Griffey is a class act that will go down in history as one of the greatest center fielders of all time.

Griffey will be eligible for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. He will be enshrined with his Mariners hat on. Baseball fans will always remember him for his days in Mariner blue. The lost years that were his Reds years will be forgotten.

The dream of bringing home a championship to Cincinnati didn’t even come close. The Griffey era with the Reds is a long painful stretch of time that both parties involve hope to forget.

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