George Kenneth Griffey, Jr. began his career playing with his father on the Seattle Mariners. He was a tall, thin kid from Donora, Pennsylvania, and became the first overall pick in the 1987 major league draft.
He was given the nickname, "The Natural," and was said to blow the then young, exciting (and very thin) Barry Bonds out of the park, talent-wise. He spent 11 seasons with the Mariners, and during that time became one of the most powerful hitters in the major leagues.
Over his time in Seattle, he compiled 1,752 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBI, and 167 stolen bases. He also led the American league in home runs four times during the 90s and was named most valuable player in 1997.
Sneakers and cleats were detailed with the number "24," and kids wanted them, thinking they would be able to run as fast as Ken Griffey.
He became the slugger on Sega-Genesis baseball games and was one of the most popular players in the game. In 1999, during the mid-summer classic at legendary Fenway Park, Griffey was named to the All-Century Team along with the likes of Ted Williams and Yogi Berra. By the time he left Seattle, he was well on his way to becoming the new home run king.
Unfortunately, God-given talent would be sidelined. Griffey began a long run of DL visits while with the Cincinnati Reds. Along with this loss of natural talent came the age of steroids in baseball, and soon Barry Bonds was the juicing front-runner to Hammerin' Hanks' mark of 755 home runs.
It seems like Griffey was the metaphor for the baseball player who played on pure talent alone without any tainted achievements. As he fell, the sport fell as well, from a time of seeing 50 home runs as a wonderous mark, to now a certain target for steroid users.
Now the 38-year-old outfielder will finally be recognized for all of his hard work and perseverance. He will finally reach the 600 HR mark and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
At least he will receive an honor no cheater will get, like Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and hopefully the current "Home Run King," Barry Bonds. That honor is a place in Cooperstown, where Ken Griffey, Jr. so rightfully belongs.