Ken Griffey Jr. Retires: The 10 Most Memorable Moments in His Career
The day we thought would never come has arrived. Ken Griffey Jr. retired from Major League Baseball. We have watched Ken Griffey Jr. do things unlike any ballplayer in history. Twenty-one years and 630 home runs later, one of the greatest center fielders of all-time is finally hanging them up.
Ken Griffey Jr. has given us a lifetime's worth of baseball memories. Some of the best highlights in all of baseball over the last 20 years feature Ken Griffey Jr. From all of his countless great moments, here is a look at the ten best moments of Ken Griffey Jr.'s career.
Heck of a Debut
Griffey was an instant hit when he debuted on Opening Day 1989. Griffey, then just 19 years old, smoked a double off Athletics All-Star Dave Stewart and gave the Mariners and baseball fans across the nation a glimpse of greatness to come.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. made baseball history on September 14, 1990. That night in Anaheim, the Griffey family went back-to-back off the Angels' Kirk McCaskill. Griffey Sr, then 40, and Griffey Jr, then 20, remain the only father-son tandem in baseball history to hit back-to-back home runs.
Griffey's greatest catch came so early in his career that it is likely overlooked by a young generation of fans and introduced him as the "Yankee Killer" he grew into.
On April 26, 1990, Griffey ran a country mile in Yankee Stadium's former Death Valley, climbed the wall and robbed Jesse Barfield of his 200th home run. It remains one of the best home run thefts of all time.
The Catch (redux)
Griffey's catch off Baltimore's Kevin Bass on May 26, 1995, was one of the best of his career, but it also came with damaging results. Griffey suffered a severe fracture of his left wrist that left him concerned he wouldn't play again. However, Griffey returned after 73 games, hit 17 home runs and sparked the Mariners to their epic second-half run.
Walkoff vs. Wettleland
It was the biggest home run of his career to that point. On August 24, 1995, the Mariners' effort to catch the Angels in their unbelievable run in the Summer 1995. That is, until Ken Griffey Jr. stepped in against Yankees closer John Wetteland.
Trailing 7-6, Griffey Jr. turned on a first pitch fastball from Wetteland for a game-winning two-run home run that served as the M's catalyst to overtake the Angels. It was not the last time Griffey killed the Yankees that season.
The Mariners fell behind 2-0 in the best of five series against the Yankees in the first ever American League Division Series. However, the Mariners battled their way back to a Game Five in the Kingdome.
It was the bottom of the 11th and Griffey was on first base. Edgar Martinez scorched a double off Jack McDowell down the left field line, scoring Griffey all the way from first. The image of Griffey beating the throw to Jim Leyritz is arguably the most memorable highlight of his career.
On July 28, 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. hit one of the longest home runs ever blasted inside the Kingdome. His third deck shot was not only one of the longest home runs he ever hit (estimated over 480 feet), but it tied him with Don Mattingly for the most consecutive games with a home run (eight).
The trade of Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 2000 season was the welcoming home of a city's native son. Griffey's father had a distinguished career with the Reds and Junior's arrival in the Queen City was supposed to be the place where records would lie in his wake.
Unfortunately, Griffey's tenure in Cincinnati came and went with levels of disappointment after years of injury, but his first day with the Reds was treated as a coronation.
600th Home Run
Nearly two years to the day prior to his retirement, Ken Griffey Jr. became the sixth man in baseball history to hit 600 home runs. On June 9, 2008, Griffey blasted his milestone home run into the sparse right field crowd on the road against the Marlins.
Return to Seattle
Griffey's return to Seattle for the 2009 season was 10 years in the making. When he was traded away following the 1999 season, he stated that he could envision himself returning to the northwest should the situation present itself and it was "warranted".
The day came prior to the 2009 season when both the Mariners and the Braves pursued him in free agency. The Braves offered him a better chance at winning, but Griffey proved one can go home again.