People called him "Junior," and someday those same people will call Ken Griffey Jr. a Hall of Famer.
For now, they are simply saying farewell. They are waving goodbye as he walks off into the baseball sunset. Junior announced in a statement Wednesday that he was hanging up his spikes, his bat, and his No. 24, ending a 22-year career that was as good as anybody else's from his generation.
Through most of it, Junior, the son of a big leaguer, was the best there was. He played baseball with a cool grace and a stylish flair that seemed to elude other men, and he was one of the few star ballplayers whose reputation didn't suffer the taint of steroids.
To even mention that word in the same sentence with Ken Griffey Jr. points the spotlight somewhere it doesn't belong. History will put the role 'roids played during Junior's career in proper perspective.
He was a once-in-a-generation ballplayer, the kind who often defines an era. He was a five-tool player, and he was a legitimate star—the brightest in the galaxy of Major League stars in the 1990s.
Junior's enduring legacy will be his passion or his sweet as molasses swing, which might have been the envy of Ted Williams himself.
No left-handed bat looked as beautiful hitting a baseball as Junior's did. When the meat of his Louisville Slugger hit a baseball, the ball flew as if propelled by a rocket engine. And 630 of those balls sailed out of Major League ballparks.
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