'Bout time someone took Jackie.
Killericon is happy(but slightly embarresed to be taking the 4th modern player in a row) to select Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father, Ken Griffey, Sr. played for the Cincinnati Reds. The younger Griffey played baseball at Moeller High School, a Catholic school in Cincinnati better known for its football program. While he was in high school, he drew raves from Major League scouts for his batting swing, widely regarded as the best of his generation, and effortless fielding prowess. In fact, Griffey's teammates would supposedly play closer to the lines in order for Griffey to take advantage of (and display) his great range in center field.
In 1987 Griffey was selected with the first overall pick of that year's amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners. As a big leaguer, he was well on the way to the Rookie of the Year award but was thwarted when he slipped in the shower and broke a bone in his right hand in late July, 1989. While with the Mariners, Junior, as he is often called, established himself as one of baseball's premier players, and during the '90s, Griffey was considered one of the best players of the time. In fact, many consider him to be the "player of the 90s" despite playing in a hitter's park (the Kingdome) and having arguably inferior statistics to the less-likeable Barry Bonds. Other competitors for the title might have been Frank Thomas and, more questionably, Albert Belle. Before injuries cut into his production, he was a top run producer and the best center fielder in the big leagues although Devon White and Jim Edmonds also merit mention. Griffey hit for a high average, batting over .300 for seven of the years of the '90s, and hit with power as well, slugging 422 home runs during the decade.
Additionally, his defense in center field breeched no rivals during that decade. Thanks to his impressive range, Griffey frequently made spectacular diving plays, and he often dazzled fans by making over-the-shoulder basket catches (a la Willie Mays' "the Catch" in the 1954 World Series) and by robbing opposing hitters of home runs at the wall — leaping up and pulling them back into the field of play. For all of these reasons, Ken Griffey Jr. was one of baseball's most respected and well-liked players during the 1990s. He was featured on the Wheaties cereal box and, because of his general likability and lack of legal problems, was an effective pitchman. Griffey also had his own signature sneaker line from Nike, Inc.
One of Ken Griffey Jr. signature sneakers, the Nike Air Griffey Max.
One of Ken Griffey Jr. signature sneakers, the Nike Air Griffey Max.
Because of his all-around excellent play, he was a perennial participant in the All-Star Game, particularly during the 1990s although less so during the early '00s because of injuries. Junior has led his league multiple times in hitting categories and was awarded Gold Gloves for his defensive excellence from 1990 to 1999. Griffey also became one of a very small number to have played on the same team as his father, Ken Griffey Sr in 1990 and 1991. In 1997, he won the American League Most Valuable Player award, hitting .304, with 56 home runs and 147 runs batted in.
Perhaps the single most memorable moment of Griffey's career with the Mariners came during the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) against the New York Yankees. After falling behind in the series 0-2, they came back to take the next two games and create a must-win Game Five. In the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 5, Griffey scored from first base on an Edgar Martinez double, giving the Mariners the win and seeing them through to the American League Championship Series (ALCS). Although the Mariners lost the ALCS to now-Mariners manager Mike Hargrove's Indians, the moment is one of the most memorable in Mariners history, and the series has been credited with "saving baseball in Seattle", given speculation that the Mariners might move. A video game for Super NES, "Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run" commemorates the moment.
In 1999, he ranked Number 93 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. This list was compiled during the 1998 season, counting only statistics through 1997. It was argued by some that, had the voting been done two or three years later, he would have been ranked several places higher: at age 29 (going on 30), he was easily the youngest player on the list. That same year, Griffey was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. However, when TSN updated their list for a new book in 2005, despite having surpassed 400 and 500 home runs, Griffey remained at Number 93. He is currently 11th place on the all-time home runs list with 556, eight ahead of Mike Schmidt and seven behind Reggie Jackson. He has the second-most of any active player, behind only Barry Bonds, who has 722.
Despite Griffey's elite performances and seemingly bright future in Seattle, he nonetheless became disenchanted with playing for the Mariners. Publicly, he expressed frustration over what he believed was a lack of commitment to winning on the part of Seattle management.
Also, there was speculation that Griffey was very unhappy with Seattle's new park, Safeco Field, a stadium in which it was much harder for hitters to produce runs than in the Kingdome. It has been reported that Griffey — along with other Seattle players — requested that the architects of Safeco Field bring the fences closer to home plate, but that, much to the players' chagrin, the designers built a park with deeper-than-average dimensions (especially in center field). This, combined with Safeco being at sea level and Seattle's typically dense, moisture-laden atmosphere, helped create a "pitcher-friendly" ballpark where power hitters like Griffey would see their batting statistics suffer. In the summer of 1999, it was reported that Griffey hit a ball that would likely have been a home run in the Kingdome, but turned into a long fly-out to center in Safeco. Then, allegedly, Griff stormed angrily to the Mariner dugout telephone, calling the Mariner General Manager and demanding a trade that day . Although Griffey has always denied an interest in baseball's hallowed records, it appeared in 1999 that he had his sights set on breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. Another reason why Griffey might want to leave Seattle would be an interest in playing for the team for which his father starred for some time.
Griffey ultimately got his wish, and following the 1999 season, was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, and Antonio Pérez. Initially, the future looked extremely bright for him in Cincinnati. It was the city in which he had grown up, and Griffey was reportedly very pleased to be playing on his father's former team — on the open market, Griffey could have made several million dollars more than the contract offered by the small-market Reds. However, his contract apparently includes backloaded payments which will be paid until 2024.
The 2000 season began what has generally been seen by the media as a decline in Griffey's superstar status. Although his statistics during this season were respectable, they were far below his previous level of play: in 145 games, Griffey hit .271 with 40 home runs, but his .942 On-base plus slugging was his lowest mark in five years. Griffey's request for his old jersey number also served as a distraction. While Griffey was wearing his father's number, 30, he was unable to wear his number of '24'. (A number that supposedly brought him much luck in Seattle). However, this number was already retired for the Cincinnati Reds' Tony Perez. The Reds did not grant Griffey his request. Additionally, from 2001 through 2004, Griffey was plagued by a seemingly endless string of injuries, including season-ending injuries in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Worse yet for Griffey, the cumulative effects of the injuries lowered his bat speed, resulting in less power and fewer home runs (he slugged only .426 before succumbing to injury in 2002, his lowest output in seven years). Some speculate that Griffey's myriad injuries are a result of a decade of playing on the Kingdome's artificial turf, which players claim is essentially like playing the game on asphalt. Others suggest that Griffey's lack of commitment to physical fitness while he was in his twenties (relative to other Major Leaguers like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom played effectively well into their forties) opened him up to injury problems as he got older. Whatever the causes, though, injuries forced Griffey to miss 260 out of 486 games from 2002 through 2004, diminishing both his skills and his star reputation. Consequently, he is not nearly the ubiquitous presence he once was on cereal boxes, television commercials, and the All-Star Game.
In 2004, Griffey avoided major injury during the first half of the season, and on June 20 became the 20th player to hit 500 career home runs. His 500th home run came, fittingly, on Father's Day in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, with his father Ken Sr. in the stands; the homer also tied Ken Jr. with his father for career hits with 2,143. However, the injury bug bit again just before the All-Star break, when Griffey, Jr. suffered a partial hamstring tear, knocking him out of the All-Star Game and putting him on the disabled list yet again. He did get his 500th home run ball from a fan who was also there for Father's Day with his dad. The fan received many rewards from Griffey Jr.
Griffey finished the 2004 season on the disabled list after suffering a complete rupture of his right hamstring in San Francisco on August 11. The play in question occurred at SBC Park in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Griffey was starting in right field for the first time in his 16-year Major League career when he raced toward the gap to try to cut off a ball before it got to the wall. He slid as he got to the ball, but in the process hyperextended his right leg. He later came out of the game, complaining of "tightness" in the hamstring exacerbated by chilly conditions in San Francisco. But there was far more to it than anyone realized at the time.
Shortly after this injury, the Reds' team physician, Timothy Kremchek, devised an experimental surgery dubbed "The Junior Operation" that would use three titanium screws to reattach Griffey's hamstring. For several weeks, Griffey's right leg was in a sling that kept the leg at a 90-degree angle, and he was not able to move the leg until late October. After an intense rehabilitation period, he returned for the 2005 season. In April, he hit only .244 with only one homer (on April 30) and nine RBI.
Starting May 1, the 2005 season saw the resurgence of a healthy Griffey. The fluid swing, which depends heavily on excellent lower body strength, returned to its original form, now that Griffey's hamstring and calf problems appear behind him. Junior's 35 home runs were his highest since his first year with the Reds as Griffey slowly moved up the career home run list. He ended the season tied with Mickey Mantle, after having passed Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and Mel Ott in 2005.
Early in September, he strained a tendon in his left foot (an injury unrelated to his past hamstring and calf problems), and was listed as day-to-day for several weeks. On September 22, with the Reds out of playoff contention, the team decided to bench him for the rest of the season so he could immediately have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and a separate operation to repair scars from his 2004 hamstring operation. Still, his 128 games in 2005 were the most he has played since 2000. Griffey's resurgence was recognized when he was named National League Comeback Player of the Year.
If his health remains intact, Junior could reach 600 home runs sometime in the 2007 season, at age 37. Had the chronic injuries of 2001-2004 not limited his astronomical progress, the question would have been when, not if, Griffey would surpass Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home runs.
Griffey also played in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC) for the United States, where he was one of the team's biggest contributors, notching three home runs during the event.
During the second game of the 2006 season, Griffey hit home run #537 which overtook Mickey Mantle's 12th all-time position on the home run list.
Griffey and his wife Melissa have 3 children: George Kenneth III ("Trey"), daughter Taryn Kennedy, and adopted son Tevin Kendall. When Trey was born, then-Mariners' G.M. Woody Woodward sent him a player's contract dated 2012. Griffey switched his uniform number in 2006, from 30 to 3, to honor his three kids.
Griffey returned on May 11, 2006 from an injury he suffered to his knee on April 12, 2006 to hit a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Washington Nationals. On June 5th, 2006 Jr tied Fred McGriff's record by hitting a homerun in his 43rd different ballpark, at the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium. On June 19, 2006 Griffey hit career home run 548, tying him with Mike Schmidt, and then six days later passed Schmidt with 549. On June 27, 2006 Griffey hit his 550th career home run against the Kansas City Royals.