Ken Griffey Junior: A long Road to 600.
In 1987 ,the Seattle Mariners selected Ken Griffey Junior with the first overall selection in the amateur draft. Scouts said " If you thought Barry Bonds was exciting, wait till you see this kid." With a swing described as "effortless" and a famous baseball father, " The Kid" was on his way to baseball fame.
A suicide attempt in 1988, and a broken hand in 1989, derailed his first two season in the majors. His next 11 years in Seattle he established himself as one of the best players of the '90's. He had an assault on the record books with 1,752 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBI's, and 167 stolen bases.
With 10 Gold Gloves, his defense in center field was unmatched. Thanks to his impressive speed and athleticism, he would often make diving catches and leaping over the wall to rob home runs seem easy. With his own shoe deal with Nike, and his mug plastered on everything from billboards to Wheaties boxes, he was becoming an icon.
The Mariners never made it to the World Series during Griffey's time in Seattle, falling short to the Indians in the 1995 ALCS. After being named to the All-Century team in 1999 and ranked 93rd in the Sporting News list of 100 Greatest Baseball Players, "The Kid" had grown into one of the elite of the game.
Then after the 1999 season, Griffey asked to be traded out of Seattle so he could play closer to home. The Mariners agreed and sent him to Cincinnati to play for his father's former team the Reds. The 2000 season brought great promise for the Reds and Griffey, but in just 145 games Griffey hit .271 with 40 homers, his lowest totals in five years.
2001-2004 brought hard times for Griffey. He was plagued by injuries that forced him to miss most, if not all of the 2002, 2003, and 2004 seasons. With injuries and age, his bat speed slowed down, and his once superstar skills diminished, making him an afterthought in the Reds outfield.
After several surguries to his hamstring and calf, he returned in the 2005 season fully recovered and finally healthy. The fluid effortless swing came back and his 35 home runs were his highest since his first year with the Reds, as he slowly moved up the career home run list ending the season tied with Micky Mantle for 12th.
Griffey continued to move up the home run list, playing in 125 games in 2005, his most since 2000. In 2007 he was elected as an all-time Gold Glove winner, solidifying his spot as one of the best nine defensive players in the last fifty years. Coming into the 2008 season, Griffey was poised to become just the sixth player to hit 600 home runs, and after hitting his 599th on May 31st he just needs one more to reach that milestone.
Despite all the injuries and missed games, Ken Griffey Jr. will be in Cooperstown. His numbers speak for themselves. Also, in an era where every home run hitter's name has been associated with steroids, Griffey's name as stayed clean. With his once great career delayed by injuries, you will never hear Griffey complain. Because to him, the story is not over yet.
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