The face of Seattle Mariners has called it quits. Ken Griffey Jr., the once bright-eyed youngster with a million dollar smile and backward hat, ended his career Wednesday, June 2.
Junior was the biggest star of the 1990s and one of the few who did it all naturally, as far as we know. Not once has Griffey even been suspected of doing performance enhancing drugs.
While blasting home runs with a perfect swing that seemed right out of a movie, Griffey’s swing and backward hat were emulated by every kid who loved the game of baseball. While other stars of his era have been accused of using PEDs, it was injuries that derailed a record setting career.
In his heyday in the '90s, Griffey was the man who save baseball in the Pacific Northwest. One of the defining moments in a hall of fame career was the 1995 American League Division Series.
Seattle was down 2-0 to the New York Yankees. The Mariners came back to tie the series at 2-2.
In the 11th inning of the deciding fifth game, with Griffey on first base, Edgar Martinez, another Mariners great, hit a double. Griffey raced around the bases to score the winning run putting Seattle in the American League Championship series.
In 1995, Griffey famous stated he would never play for the Yankees and cited the way his father and he were treated by the organization. Junior, along with Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Alex Rodriguez, helped sell out the Kingdome.
The Mariners of that era helped get the state legislature to help build the new stadium known as Safeco Field. With Griffey leading the way, many call Safeco “the house Griffey built.”
While in Seattle, Griffey would get his own Super Nintendo game, grace boxes of Wheaties, and become an endorser of Nike. Griffey was to baseball what Michael Jordan was to basketball in the '90s.
After the 1994 labor dispute, Griffey would excite and bring fans back to baseball with his home run hitting swing. He would lead the Major Leagues with 56 home runs in 1997.
In 2000, Griffey left Seattle to become a Red in his home town of Cincinnati. Griffey would spend the later part of 2008 in Chicago after he was traded to the White Sox.
During his career, Griffey would be named a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Home Run Derby Champion, and the 1997 MVP. He would have 2,781 hits, a lifetime batting average of .284, and hit 630 home runs.
Earlier this season it was reported that Griffey missed a chance to pinch hit because he was napping. The story caused controversy but was put to rest after the Mariners and Griffey denied the report.
There is no telling what kind of home run numbers Griffey would have put up his is abilities were not slowly robbed by injuries. Early in his career, he was on pace to surpass Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list.
Still, while Junior will not top that list, he will be known as the greatest player in the steroids era. Most of his peers have been accused of using PEDs and cheating the game of baseball.
Nearly all of the star players of the '90s have been suspected of PED use but Junior. He might be the last player most fans can say with a certain amount of certainty that was the last clean hitter.
As fans, we will never forget how Griffey could chase down a fly ball and run up a wall to steal a home run. No one will ever forget Junior’s backward hat and most of all his perfect home run swing.
After 22 years in the majors, Griffey’s legacy is well cemented and now his Hall of Fame election is all that waits. For baseball fans, there is no joy in Mudville as mighty Junior has walked out.