Last Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr., one of the greatest baseball players of all time, hung up his cleats, capping a historic career, both on and off the field.
Much has been made of his 13 All-Star nods, 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and one American League MVP Award, but lost in the fray of statistics and record books (in which Griffey certainly plays a dominant role), are the little things that made Ken Griffey Jr.’s career so great.
Growing up as a Mariners fan 1990s, I had the pleasure of witnessing the most epic moments in Mariners history. I saw the Kingdome, the Unit No-No (and the lesser-remembered Bosio No-No), Jay Buhner Hair Nights, and of course, the Ken Griffey Jr. Era of Seattle Mariners baseball.
As Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing wrote, “The experience of watching Ken Griffey Jr. rise in Seattle just seems like one of those things every Mariner fan should have in common.” Jeff was lamenting his long-distance admiration of Griffey in the 1990s, and eloquently explained a perceived Mariners fan rite of passage. Of course, Jeff Sullivan is one of the greatest Mariners' minds in the business, and he has more than compensated for being far away from The Kid in the 1990s, but I found his statement concerning the Griffey Era remarkable.
Everyone knows about The Double, the Father/Son Homers, and The Wrist-Breaking Catch. What made Griffey’s run in Seattle so epic, however, was the little things like grinning, shimmying, shaking, and play-making.
So here is your forum, baseball fans, to share your Ken Griffey Jr. story. I encourage each reader to comment below with their "Ken Griffey Jr. moment."
Here is my Ken Griffey Jr. moment:
I grew up in Bellingham, Washington, about 90 miles north of Seattle. Naturally, I grew up a Seattle Mariners fan, but being 90 miles from the Mariners had its drawbacks. 90 miles is close enough to go to games every now and then, but getting home after a 7:00 p.m. game was a task (midnight at best), and it took our best persuasive techniques to get my parents to take us down to the ballpark.
This being the case, most of the landmark Seattle Mariners’ moments came were viewed though my television, including all of the above-mentioned events (Unit No-No, etc.). It was not until I moved to Seattle in 2009, that I began attending Mariners’ games on a regular basis. Luckily, in the last year of Ken Griffey Jr.’s career, I witnessed what I consider my “Griffey Moment.”
On June 19, 2009, the Seattle Mariners hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks at Safeco Field. Entering the eighth inning, the Mariners trailed 3-0. Following a Russell Branyan solo home run, the Mariners sat trailing by two, with two outs and a runner on third.
As if from a movie script, Ken Griffey Jr. stepped into the on-deck circle to pinch hit for Wladimir Balentien.
Safeco Field erupted.
I, caught amidst the nostalgia, joined the resounding chorus of Safeco field, and participated in a standing ovation for The Kid. Concurrently, I leaned to my wife and her friend and said two things. First, that I had never heard Safeco Field so loud, and two, that it was a damn shame because Griffey was probably just going to strike out.
I was so delightfully wrong.
First pitch. Boom.
Tony Pena delivered a belt-high four-seam fastball, and Griffey sent it four hundred feet into right-center field. Safeco Field erupted, I was jumping up and down, and in an instant, I witnessed the charisma, nostalgia, and greatness of Ken Griffey Jr.’s Seattle Mariners career.
In an uncharacteristic moment, I almost teared up at a baseball game. It was uncharacteristic because I’m not a crying kind of guy. Not out of any attempted stereotypical manliness, but out of genuine physical inability. There are moments when I feel like crying, but it just doesn’t happen. Those moments, to me, are the same as crying is to other people. This was one of those moments.
I wasn’t there for The Double. I wasn’t there for a breath-taking Griffey catch. Instead, I was there for Griffey’s return. Ken Griffey Jr., and all his greatness, warranted a standing ovation nearly every time he was a late game pinch hitter. In this moment, he fulfilled every expectation in the stadium.
In this moment, Ken Griffey Jr. achieved greatness, both to the fans and the game.
Click Here to see the pinch hit home run , and tell me it doesn't send shivers down your spine.
That is my Ken Griffey Jr. story.
Please share yours below.