Tag: Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. Is the 1st No. 1 Overall Pick to Be Inducted into Hall of Fame

Fact: Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. He is the first No. 1 overall pick to be enshrined at Cooperstown. 

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Source: MLB Network

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Baseball Hall of Fame 2016: Induction Ceremony Start Time and TV Info

Baseball’s Hall of Fame will open its doors to two of the most impactful hitters in recent memory when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza enter the Cooperstown, New York, shrine Sunday.

Griffey and Piazza entered Major League Baseball at the opposite ends of the hype spectrum when they were drafted in 1987 and 1988, respectively.

Griffey, the son of Ken Griffey Sr.who was one of the core players of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine throughout the 1970swas selected first overall in the MLB draft.

Piazza did not appear to have much hope of reaching the big leagues, as he was selected in the 62nd round. The draft now ends after Round 40.


2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

When: Sunday, July 24

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Clark Sports Center; Cooperstown, New York

TV: MLB Network

Live Stream: BaseballHall.org

Piazza was selected because Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda knew his father, Vince, and both men were convinced Piazza could be a special hitter, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

The younger Piazza made the most of his opportunity, becoming a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger. He finished his career with 427 home runs and a .308/.377/.545 slash line with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida (now Miami) Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.

Piazza proved to be one of the greatest hitting catchers in the history of the game, and he regularly demonstrated his ability to hit with power to all fields.

Baseball-Reference.com shared some of his numbers:

His induction speech figures to be emotional, because Piazza was a long shot to make the major leagues, let alone earn a spot in Cooperstown.

“I’m definitely going to cry,” Piazza said, per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. “I’m trying to figure out what medication I’m going to need without being loopy. It’s going to be tough.” 

Piazza made the Hall of Fame with 83.0 percent of the vote, while Griffey made it with 99.3 percent of the vote.

Griffey had a magnificent career with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, finishing with 630 home runs. He was a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger and the 1997 American League MVP.

Junior played from 1989 through 2010, finishing his career with a .284/.370/.538 slash line.

Whistle Sports shared some of his highlights:

Fans recognized him as one of the two greatest players in the game (along with Barry Bonds) during the first part of his career with the Mariners, and most expected Griffey to continue putting up eye-catching numbers when he went to the Reds in 2000. However, while he was productive with the Reds, his sensational career was slowed by injuries after he arrived in his hometown.

Griffey topped the 40-home run mark six times during his career with the Mariners, but he hit the 40-homer mark only once with the Reds. Additionally, he had a .300-plus batting average seven times in Seattle but just once in Cincinnati.

Griffey never played in a World Series during his career, and that’s one of the reasons why the Hall of Fame ring means so much to him.

“It might be on the gate when you ring in,” Griffey joked, per Casey McGraw of the Times Union. “It might be like the Stanley Cup, I might take it around, do some things with it; brush my hair with it. I’ll figure out something, but it’ll be seen.”

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Ken Griffey Jr. Says David Ortiz Belongs in Baseball Hall of Fame

Ahead of Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, the longtime Seattle Mariners slugger expressed his belief that Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz should join him on the hallowed ground in Cooperstown, New York.

According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, Griffey lauded Big Papi’s resume and labeled it Hall of Fame-worthy Saturday: “He’s done an incredible job in that city. Do I think he’s a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Just look at the numbers he’s put up: Three (World Series) titles, and the list of his accomplishments on the field goes on. You can’t take that away from him.”

Griffey—who will enter the Hall of Fame with a record-breaking 99.32 percent of the vote—also fondly remembered Ortiz coming up through the Mariners farm system as a prospect, per Crasnick:

I got a chance to see him young. He wasn’t Big Papi. He was ‘Thin Papi’ at that time. To watch him do the things he’s done over the years, he’s become one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. He’s the one guy where you say, ‘If we’re up by two, let’s just walk him and go for the next guy.’ He’s got a chance to put a team up by three real quick.

Ortiz announced his intention to retire at the conclusion of the season, and there is no question his numbers are Hall of Fame-caliber in nature.

He entered play Saturday with a career batting average of .286 to go along with 527 home runs and 1,720 RBI, not to mention his postseason heroics.

Ortiz has been a DH for the vast majority of his career, so the fact he has contributed in only one facet of the game could impact the way the voters view him.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it was revealed in 2009 that Ortiz allegedly failed a 2003 drug test, which called into question the authenticity of his numbers.

Voters have held other performance-enhancing-drug-linked players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro out of the Hall of Fame despite statistics that make them strong candidates.

That is an issue Ortiz may have to face five years down the line, but he has the support of an all-time great and peer.


Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Ken Griffey Jr.: MLB Relying on ‘The Kid’ to Make Baseball Cool for Kids Again

They sit across the negotiating table as adversaries, but Rob Manfred and Tony Clark are also partners.

As the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the head of its players union, respectively, Manfred and Clark have significant differences, but also common goals. There’s little they agree on more than the need to bring the game to younger audiences, to increase baseball’s appeal to the next generation.

They need to get through to the kids, which is why eight months ago they got together on a conference call and appealed to The Kid for help.

Ken Griffey Jr. goes by many names. He’ll always be Junior to many, and he’ll always be Uncle Griffey to some.

But he’s also The Kid, a nickname that made sense when he was a 19-year-old rookie with the Seattle Mariners and still makes sense now as he closes in on 50 and heads into the Hall of Fame.

“We’re trying to engage young people,” Clark said. “Having my face on it isn’t going to do it. No disrespect to the commissioner, but his face isn’t going to do it, either. Who can do that?”

Who else but The Kid? Who else but the guy who managed to stay young through a 22-year career in the major leagues, the guy kids were always drawn to, the guy whose many charitable ventures always involved reaching out to children?

“It was too natural a fit,” Clark said. “To me, it was the perfect marriage.”

From Griffey, there was a simple answer.

“I was like, let’s do it,” he said.

So even as he prepared for this weekend in Cooperstown, and the ceremony that will make him a Hall of Famer, Griffey made plans for the next stage of his baseball life, the one that will see him serve the game as Major League Baseball’s first “youth ambassador.”

The job seems open-ended, which suits Griffey well. He’ll make videos and appearances, and if all goes well, he’ll encourage a new generation of kids to choose baseball.

“He is the magnet,” Clark said. “He’s going to open doors—or kick some doors down.”

But more than that, he’ll be in charge of proving to another generation that baseball is for them, that baseball can be cool.

“Before it was cool to be cool, Junior was cool,” Clark said.

He still is.

Griffey has been a magnet for years, without even trying to be one.

Andrew McCutchen grew up in Fort Meade, Florida, all the way across the country from Seattle. But it was Griffey who drew him to baseball, making such an impression that the young McCutchen wore a Mariners jersey he still has to this day.

“He was one of the main reasons I played baseball,” said McCutchen, the 2013 National League MVP with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “When the TV was on and he was playing, I was watching. I didn’t care what he did, I just wanted to watch him.”

McCutchen wasn’t alone. Players all over baseball speak of Griffey in glowing terms.

“That was my idol growing up,” Kansas City Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson said. “Just a special player.”

Griffey played the game well, but he also played it with flair. He’d wear his cap backward at a time when no one else did, and he had a constant smile on his face at a time when so many thought it was more important to look serious.

He was fun to watch, but more than that, he would make baseball look like fun.

“I wouldn’t be a baseball player if I didn’t think it was fun,” McCutchen said.

The Kid made it look fun.

Griffey’s connection to kids goes far beyond how he played the game. From his early years with the Mariners, his charity of choice was the Boys & Girls Clubs, and his contributions went far beyond handing out money.

He was Uncle Griffey to the kids there, and he made a real impact.

“There’s one athlete that really made a difference for the kids in our area, and that was Ken Griffey Jr.,” said Bill Burton, who was executive director of the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, where Griffey was most involved.

Burton fondly remembers the Christmas dinners Griffey hosted and how Griffey got Nike involved, too. Griffey spent time at the club himself and challenged the kids to improve their grades and get involved in community service work.

Those who succeeded were taken on trips Griffey sponsored and arranged himself. He brought some of the Seattle kids to Cincinnati after he was traded to the Reds, and he brought kids from both Seattle and Cincinnati to his home outside Orlando, Florida.

“It was incredible,” Burton said.

On the Orlando trip, the kids first went to Disney World. Then they got on the bus and went back to the hotel, where they were told to get their swimsuits for a trip to the pool.

What they weren’t told was the pool was at Griffey’s house.

“The kids got off the bus, and they went into this big house,” Burton said. “They went to change into the swimsuits, and then when they got to the pool, Ken came back there and jumped in the pool himself.”

“The kids were so excited,” Burton said.

Griffey’s involvement continues to this day. He still sits on the Boys & Girls Club’s national board of directors, the one former professional athlete on a board dominated by corporate executives.

Griffey’s task is to get kids excited about baseball, because for all its continuing popularity, the sport does have a demographics problem. A 2014 study by Derek Thompson in the Atlantic showed 50 percent of baseball’s television audience consisted of people 55 and over, as opposed to just 25 percent of those who watch the NBA.

Even kids who show interest in playing the game don’t always watch.

“I did a camp wearing my full Mets uniform,” outfielder Curtis Granderson said. “A kid came up and asked, ‘What team do you play for?'”

Griffey, for all his possible appeal, hasn’t been in uniform since May 2010. The Kid will be 47 this November. 

But Nike still sells Air Griffey shoes, even in grade school sizes, as well as Griffey Swingman caps and T-shirts.

Griffey knows the challenge of getting kids to baseball. His older son, Trey, is a wide receiver at the University of Arizona, and his younger son, Tevin, gave up baseball for three years before recently coming back to it at age 14.

“In practice, he made one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” Griffey said. “You know my catch at Yankee Stadium and my dad’s catch at Yankee Stadium? It was better than that.”

Griffey goes to watch Tevin and goes to watch two nephews who play youth baseball.

“People see me and ask, ‘What are you doing here?'” he said.

Griffey has always been at ease around kids, and they have always been drawn to him.

Rusty Kuntz was the Mariners first base coach in 1989, when Griffey debuted as a 19-year-old outfielder.

“When older players brought their sons into the clubhouse, everyone just gravitated towards Junior,” said Kuntz, now the first base coach with the Kansas City Royals. “Four years old or 14 years old, they were always so comfortable around Junior.”

In his recent profile of Griffey for Sports Illustrated, Ben Reiter tells the story of Griffey and his wife, Melissa, walking through a shopping mall in Bellevue, Washington, early in Griffey’s career. Upset about something, Melissa yelled “I’m with Ken Griffey Jr.!” only to have every kid in the mall come running after them.

Don Wakamatsu was the Mariners manager when Griffey returned to Seattle in 2009. The two got along great the first year and not so well the second, when Griffey retired midseason, but Wakamatsu still speaks highly of him.

“He played the game as a kid,” said Wakamatsu, now the bench coach with the Royals. “What I loved about Griffey is he was a kid. A wonderful guy with a big heart.”

The question, and the challenge, is whether Griffey can have the same impact on kids who may have never seen him play. Griffey was last an All-Star in 2007; his MVP season of 1997 was 19 years ago.

Thomas Truncale doesn’t think it will be a problem.

Truncale is 18 years old and just started school at the University of South Florida. He became a Griffey fan from watching highlights on ESPN, but he became a Griffey believer one special day in September 2009.

Truncale suffers from severe hemophilia, a disease that made his young life difficult and kept him from playing baseball. The Make-A-Wish Foundation, another favored Griffey charity, arranged for Truncale, his parents and his three siblings to fly to Seattle, where Griffey was in his final full season with the Mariners.

Griffey did many of these Make-A-Wish visits, dating back to his early years with the Mariners. But as Truncale described it, this wasn’t a simple meet-and-greet.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Truncale said. “It’s one of those things where you felt like there was nothing else in the world that mattered to him at the time. I hadn’t ever had another experience like that, and I can’t imagine I ever will.”

The experience, Truncale said, ensures he will be a baseball fan for life.

“I’m always going to love baseball,” he said.

He’s certain Griffey can have that same impact on others.

“He’s a kid at heart,” Truncale said. “When I met him, I felt he could see what it means for kids to meet their heroes. With his ability to connect to kids, I think even if you took away all his accolades, he could still do it.

“He’s the exact type of person who can fulfill that job.”

Besides, while reaching kids is a big part of Griffey’s challenge, reaching their parents and those who can support youth baseball will be just as important.

“A lot of it is the equipment,” Griffey said. “The kids will come if they have equipment.”

Studies show that young kids are still playing baseball. Manfred cited figures showing baseball is the most played game in the country for kids 12 and under. The concern is that when those kids grow up and go to high school and college, many of the best athletes are still lost to basketball, football and even soccer.

The greater concern is that kids are being pushed to specialize at younger ages.

“If somebody had forced me to make a decision at 12 or 14, I don’t know if I would have chosen baseball,” said Clark, the players association head. “I tell kids, I understand you may have another sport you like, but don’t give up on baseball.”

Clark was a first-round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers in 1990, but he also played basketball at the University of Arizona and San Diego State. He ended up a 15-year major leaguer and a one-time All-Star with career earnings of $22 million, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

“I’m the poster boy for [not choosing too early],” he said.

But when it comes to reaching the next generation, Clark understood he would need help.

He understood he needed Griffey.

The timing was good, too.

In the six years since he retired, Griffey has done work for the Mariners as a special consultant, has been honored by both the Mariners and Reds in their franchise Halls of Fame and has spent lots of time with his family.

In January, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, getting a record 99.3 percent of the vote in his first time on the ballot.

Sunday, Griffey and Mike Piazza will be the 311th and 312th members of baseball’s most elite club.

“My schedule dramatically frees up after July 24,” Griffey said.

Clark, Manfred and others in baseball will be ready to help fill that schedule, believing Griffey can be the key to attracting the next generation of kids. And why not? With a father who played in the major leagues and sons who have played the game, Griffey already spans generations.

“I was the bridge between old school and new school,” he said. “You can express yourself without being disrespectful.”

You can understand kids, even if you’re almost 50 years old yourself. You can flash that smile, turn that hat around and it’s almost as if you’re 19 years old again.

You can still be The Kid, and you can still talk to kids. Hopefully, those kids will listen.

Baseball is counting on it.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Ken Griffey Jr. Throws 1st Pitch at Mariners Game, Does Felix Hernandez’s Pose

Before the Seattle Mariners hosted the Oakland Athletics at home on Friday night, Ken Griffey Jr. threw out the first pitch.

On its own, that’s pretty cool.

But Junior tossed the ball to Mariners star Felix Hernandez and then hit the former Cy Young winner’s celebratory dance he broke out after his perfect game in 2012:

This was more than just a pump-up moment, too:

[MLB.com, Twitter, YouTube]

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Ken Griffey Jr. Comments on If Barry Bonds Should Be in the Hall of Fame

If anyone knows whether an MLB slugger’s resume is Hall of Fame-worthy, it’s Ken Griffey Jr. The former center fielder who hit 630 home runs for the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox was inducted into the 2016 class with the highest percentage of votes of all time at 99.3 percent.

Prior to waving the green flag at the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Griffey was asked whether fellow slugger Barry Bonds, who despite being MLB’s all-time home run leader with 762 is not in the Hall of Fame because of steroid allegations, should be inducted. Griffey said he believes so, per CSNBayArea.com.

“Yeah. I think that overall, when you look what people have done, yeah,” he said. “It’s not my vote, so I can’t vote for him. But if you look at what he’s done, those numbers speak for themselves.”

It wasn’t a glowing endorsement, but still a positive one, especially coming from a guy who most fans believe is the poster boy for those who played the game the right way. Bonds, on the other hand, while never admitting to, or being caught, using performance-enhancing drugs, is widely thought to have abused steroids.

But like Griffey said, his numbers are hard to argue against:

Despite the amazing resume, Bonds received just 44.3 percent of the Hall of Fame votes this year, falling short of the 75 percent needed to be enshrined. If there is a silver lining for Bonds, it’s that he was up nearly 8 percent from his total in last year’s vote after holding steady around 35 percent from 2013 to 2015.

Bonds did not hold back Saturday when he was asked if he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, per ESPN.com:

It would be odd if Bonds said he wasn’t worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame, but the fact that Griffey is in his corner can only help him. He is one of the most respected players in the history of the game, and with the human element involved in voting (sports writers), there is a chance an opinion like this could gain Bonds some votes.

Jeff Pearlman of the New York Times thinks it’s “shameful” that Bonds, who became the Miami Marlins hitting coach in the offseason, is allowed to be part of an MLB team, sharing this meme via Twitter:

What’s significant about that picture—whether it’s accurate or not—is that Bonds’ size as his career progressed was one of the main reasons he was suspected of PED use. Now that it appears as though he has slimmed down again, the questions will continue to follow him.

As time goes on and voters stop caring, or remembering, as much about the steroid era, Bonds may have a chance to get in. He has a long way to go, but if he does make it, he may need to thank Griffey for jump-starting the process.

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Ken Griffey Jr.’s Number to Be Retired by the Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr. will go into the Hall of Fame as a Seattle Mariners legend, and no Mariners player will ever wear No. 24 again.

On Friday, the Mariners announced they will retire the number Griffey wore during his entire tenure in Seattle at some point in the upcoming season.

Seattle tweeted the news:

Griffey, along with legendary New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, was one of two players elected to the 2016 Hall of Fame class. The 13-time All-Star played for three teams in his 22-year career, but Griffey spent 13 of those years as a superstar in Seattle.

That’s the reason why Griffey wants to be remembered for his time with the Mariners, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):

I think I did most of my damage as a Mariner. Want to be the first in a lot of things, and to be able to wear a Mariners hat and to go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner, that’s also one of the decisions I needed to make. I felt being 19, they gave me an opportunity to play the game that I love. I spent most of my time in Seattle.

This is a fitting tribute for one of the greatest players in baseball history. Seattle hasn’t been a consistent winning organization since trading Griffey to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, and the run of success the Mariners experienced in the 1990s was largely due to Griffey’s contributions.

He was a once-in-a-generation player who could do everything from hitting home runs to making jaw-dropping catches in the outfield. Griffey redefined the game for outfielders and paved the way for Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, two of the best young players in baseball.

Griffey hit 417 home runs and batted .292 during his career with the Mariners.

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Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza Announce Baseball Hall of Fame Hat Selection

When you think Ken Griffey Jr., the first picture that pops into your mind is of the precocious young star who took the game by storm in Seattle. When it comes to Mike Piazza, it’s hard not to settle on him leading the New York Mets to a Subway Series showdown against the Yankees.  

Now, both players will be immortalized forever in those states. Griffey announced Thursday that he’ll go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner, while Piazza followed suit by announcing his cap will don the Mets logo.

“I think I did most of my damage as a Mariner,” Griffey said, per Lance McAlister of ESPN 1530.

Griffey and Piazza essentially split their primes between two teams. Griffey spent his first 11 MLB seasons in Seattle, earning 10 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and the 1997 MVP Award. Three times he led the American League in home runs, and he also led Seattle to its first playoff-series victory in history during the 1995 season.

Griffey subsequently signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds, where he spent parts of the next nine seasons. While he put up 40 homers and made the All-Star team during his first year with Cincinnati, injuries derailed Griffey’s prime and rendered his overall Reds experience a disappointment.

He made three All-Star appearances and was the 2005 NL Comeback Player of the Year winner, but his contributions paled in comparison to his Mariner days.

Making it all the more obvious is the fact Griffey returned to Seattle for an aborted two-year stint to finish his career. He retired midway through the 2010 season amid ineffective play, although few in Seattle will remember those waning days. They’ll remember “The Slide,” “The Catch” and all those long bombs that went soaring over the Kingdome roof.

Unfortunately, one thing we all remember will not be immortalized: Bob Nightengale of USA Today confirmed Griffey’s hat will be worn forward rather than backward.

Piazza’s decision was a little more murky. The greatest hitting catcher of all time spent his first six-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that plucked him from obscurity when no one else would have drafted him. He became a superstar in Los Angeles, racking up five All-Star appearances and as many Silver Sluggers while emerging as a dominant offensive force.

A pair of trades midway through 1998 sent him to New York, where he’d spend part of the next eight seasons. Piazza never quite reached the individual season heights as a Met that he did as a Dodger, but he had far more postseason success. The Mets made the 1999 National League Championship Series and 2000 World Series with Piazza playing a starring role, becoming one of the best players in franchise history.

“Once I just tried to do my best, the fans responded,” Piazza said, per the Hall of Fame’s official Twitter. “I’m blessed to have played here.”

The decisions here in both cases aren’t remotely shocking. However, with Griffey becoming the first Mariner enshrined, the announcement becomes all the more historic.


Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter

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TBT: Michael Jordan Asks for Ken Griffey Jr.’s Autograph at 1993 All-Star Game

We are throwing it back to the 1993 MLB All-Star Game, in honor of Ken Griffey Jr.’s record-setting 2016 Hall of Fame induction, to a moment The Kid shared with Michael Jordan at the height of their respective careers.

Having just completed his three-peat with the Chicago Bulls the month before, Jordan headed out to Camden Yards in July and made sure he came home with quite the souvenir: Griffey’s autograph.

The NBA legend interrupted reporters, handing a bat over for the star to sign. Jordan later took off and signed the Chicago White Sox jersey he was wearing, giving it to Griffey in quite the historic exchange.


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Ken Griffey Jr.’s Number Flies Above Seattle on Space Needle After HOF Induction

Seattle wasted no time celebrating Ken Griffey Jr.‘s record-setting Hall of Fame induction on Wednesday.

A flag baring the No. 24 flew high above the city from the Space Needle that night, honoring the longtime Seattle Mariners star who started and ended his career with the team.


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