One of the game's all-time greats called it a career on Wednesday. Ken Griffey Jr. officially announced his retirement, according to MLB.com, after 22 years in the game. Junior exits the game ranked fifth all time with 630 home runs, sitting behind only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays.
Griffey, who's father Ken played 19 seasons himself, was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1987 First-Year Player Draft. Since then, he's become an instant legend. He's a 10-time Gold Glove winner and has won seven Silver Slugger awards.
Highlights of him making eye-popping catches in the spacious center field of the old Kingdome will continue to roll for generations to come. And his majestic left-handed swing is one of the prettiest and most gracious swing in the game.
Junior, almost guaranteed as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, played the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners. He came up with the M's in 1989, and was a fixture in center, including his 1997 MVP season.
He was traded to the Reds prior to the 2000 season for Mike Cameron and Brett Tomko. But his career went in the wrong direction as he began his career in Cincinnati.
Injuries were a big part of his days with the Reds. He managed to play over 140 games in his first and last full seasons in Cincy. But the seasons in between were a dark time for The Kid. Altogether, he averaged 110 games played between 2000-2008 (he spent the last half of the '08 season with the White Sox).
A myriad of maladies limited his ability to help the Reds, including: a strained left hamstring, a torn tendon in his right knee, a torn right hamstring, a dislocated right shoulder, a right ankle injury, a sprained right foot, arthroscopic knee surgery, and a dislocated toe (just to name a few).
But Griffey persevered throughout those tough years, and still managed to hit 30 home runs in three separate seasons as a member of the Reds.
He returned home to Seattle before the 2009 season, when he hit 19 home runs for the Mariners. But 2010 has been a struggle for the career .284 hitter. He failed to hit a single long ball, and drove in just seven runners while batting a career-low .184 (not to mention a trip to dreamland in the clubhouse during a Mariners' game).
But in an era that has been tainted by steroids and human growth hormones, Griffey remains one of the few players whose name has never been linked to any kind of performance enhancers. His name and face are as recognizable to the world as Michael Jordan and Mickey Mouse.
His career stats now look something like this: 630 home runs, 1836 RBI, a .284 batting average, 184 stolen bases, 2,781 hits, and a .370 on-base percentage. Barring some strange aberration, we should be seeing Griffey's acceptance speech into Cooperstown in five years from now. Griffey leaves behind a lifetime of accolades, highlights and memories that will live on for many more years to come.
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