Future Legends: Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariners 1989-1999, Reds 2000-2008, White Sox 2008-present)June 10, 2008
“If I’m compared to Babe Ruth or Willie Mays, that’s great. But I’m just going to go out there and be myself.” ~ Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr. is one of the most charismatic baseball players ever to put on a major league uniform. Beginning his career in Seattle in 1989 as a 19-year old phenom, “The Kid” was immediately a national superstar. He finished his rookie season with 16 home runs and a .264 average in 127 games, then followed that with three straight seasons of 20+ home runs and a .300+ average. In 1993, Junior really took off, smacking 45 balls out of the park, just one less than Juan Gonzalez. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he led the American League with 40 home runs, and two years later came up one short of 50 in 1996.
In 1997, Griffey went yard 56 times while driving in 147 runs and hitting .304, earning the AL Most Valuable Player award. He repeated his home run total in 1998, though his average dropped below .300 for only the third time in his career. In 1999, for the third consecutive year, Griffey led the American League in home runs, the first player since Harmon Killebrew to accomplish that feat.
After eleven years in the majors, at the age of 29, Ken Griffey, Jr. had hit 398 home runs for the Seattle Mariners. Then the unthinkable happened–the Mariners traded Junior to the Cincinnati Reds, where his father had played right field for the 1975 and 1976 World Championship teams.
Griffey’s first season in Cincinnati was successful, though not what hometown fans had hoped for. He hit 40 home runs and had 118 RBIs, but those numbers were only good enough for 9th in the NL, and his batting average dropped to .271. The years that followed were filled with injuries; he only reached 20 home runs twice from 2001-2004. Junior made a minor comeback in 2005, slugging 35 home runs and driving in 92 runs while batting .301, the first time since 1997 he reached the .300 mark. Griffey followed that up with 27 home runs in 2006, and 30 in 2007. At the end of the 2007 season, he had hit 593 home runs in his career.
On June 9, 2008, Griffey connected off Mark Hendrickson of the Florida Marlins for his 600th career home run, joining Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa as the only players in history to hit that many.
Griffey has been selected to 13 All-Star teams in his career, starting in nine. He won the Gold Glove Award for ten straight years from 1990-1999 and was a seven-time Silver Slugger. On July 31, 2008, he was traded to the pennant-chasing Chicago White Sox as he attempts to return to the post-season for the first time in over a decade. While his best years are behind him, it’s still a thrill to see “The Kid” smiling at the plate.
Written by JT at The Writer’s Journey.