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|Ken Griffey, Jr.|
Griffey with the Mariners in 2009.
November 21, 1969 |
|Batted: Left||Threw: Left|
|April 3, 1989 for the Seattle Mariners|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 31, 2010 for the Seattle Mariners|
|Runs batted in||1,836|
|Career highlights and awards|
George Kenneth "Ken" Griffey, Jr. (born November 21, 1969), nicknamed "Junior" and "The Kid", is an American former professional baseball outfielder and designated hitter. Griffey was both one of the most prolific home run hitters and best defensive players in baseball history, sixth on the list of most career home runs, and is tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (8 games, tied with Don Mattingly and Dale Long). Griffey, playing for the Seattle Mariners in two separate tenures, Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox, won 10 Gold Glove awards and appeared in 13 All-Star games. Upon his retirement, the Associated Press noted: "In his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. was unanimously considered the best player in baseball."
Throughout his major league baseball career, Griffey was a popular player and a fan favorite around the league. Griffey attained widespread recognition by signing lucrative deals with companies of international prominence like Nike and Nintendo (owners of the Mariners); his popularity reflected well upon MLB and is credited by some with helping restore its image after the 1994 labor dispute. He currently works in the Mariners' front office as a special consultant. Griffey is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in Major League games in four different calendar decades. He is the son of former MLB player Ken Griffey, Sr.
Griffey shares his birthday (November 21) and birthplace (Donora, Pennsylvania) with Hall of Famer Stan Musial. His family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where father Ken Griffey, Sr. played for the Cincinnati Reds when Jr. was six. Ken was in the clubhouse during his father's back-to-back championships in the 1975 and 1976 World Series. He attended Archbishop Moeller High School, where he was the U.S high school baseball player of the year in 1987. He also played wide receiver on the football team and was pursued by many top D1 football programs around the country.
In 1987, Griffey was selected with the first overall pick of that year's amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners. In his eleven seasons with Seattle (1989–1999) Griffey established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting players of the era, racking up 1,752 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBIs, and 167 stolen bases. He led the American League in home runs for four seasons (1994, 1997, 1998, and 1999), was voted the A.L. MVP in 1997, and maintained a .297 batting average. His first major league at-bat was a double, and the first time he stepped to the plate in Seattle, he homered.
His defense in center field was widely considered the standard of elite fielding during the decade, exemplified by his streak of 10 straight Gold Gloves from 1990-1999. His impressive range allowed frequent spectacular diving plays, and he often dazzled fans with over-the-shoulder basket catches and robbed opposing hitters of home runs by leaping up and pulling them back into the field of play. He was featured on the Wheaties cereal box and had his own signature sneaker line from Nike, Inc..
In 1990 and 1991, Griffey and his father became the first son and father to play on the same team at the same time. In his father's first game as a Mariner, on August 31, 1990, the pair hit back-to-back singles in the first inning and both scored. On September 14, the pair hit back-to-back home runs in the top of the first off California Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill, becoming the first father-son duo to hit back-to-back home runs. The duo played a total of 51 games together before Griffey, Sr., retired in June 1991.
At the MLB Home Run Derby in 1993, which was held at Oriole Park in Baltimore, Griffey hit the warehouse beyond the right field wall on the fly and, he is still the only player ever to do so. As with every home run that hits Eutaw Street, each feat is honored with a circular plaque, embedded horizontally onto the concourse's walkway, in the exact spot where the home run landed. In 1994, he led the league in voting for All Star game selection. That season, which ended prematurely on August 12 due to the labor dispute, saw Griffey hit 30 home runs in the Mariners' first 65 games. He would go on to have 4 multi-home run games that year. While his pace cooled somewhat in the final eight weeks of the season (he only hit 10 home runs in the Mariners' last 47 games), his 40 home runs by August 12 still put him two ahead of Chicago's Frank Thomas and four ahead of Cleveland's Albert Belle for the AL lead. In 1997, Griffey won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .304, with 56 home runs and 147 RBIs.
One of the most memorable moments of Griffey's career with the Mariners came during the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) against the New York Yankees. After losing the first two games, the Mariners and Griffey were on the verge of elimination, but came back to win the next two games, setting up a decisive fifth game. In the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 5, with Griffey on first base, teammate Edgar Martínez hit a double. Griffey raced around the bases, slid into home with the winning run, and popped up into the waiting arms of the entire team. The 1995 AL Division Series would kick off a brief rivalry between the Yankees and the Mariners. Griffey may have escalated it by saying that he would never play for the Yankees, because the Yankees allegedly treated his father, Ken Griffey Sr. badly. Also, when Griffey was a kid visiting his dad in the Yankee clubhouse, Yankee manager Billy Martin would chase him out, believing that children did not belong in the clubhouse. Although the Mariners subsequently lost the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians (managed by later Mariners manager Mike Hargrove), that moment remains one of the most memorable in Mariners history, capping a season that "saved baseball in Seattle", Seattle's improbable late season playoff run that year, spurred by the return of Griffey from injury, led to the construction of Safeco Field and the future security of a franchise rumored for years to be on the move. The play also inspired the title of the video game Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Winning Run for the Super Nintendo.
In 1999, he ranked 93rd on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. This list was compiled during the 1998 season, counting only statistics through 1997. At age 29 (going on 30), he was the youngest player on the list. That same year, Griffey was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. However, when TSN updated their list for a new book in 2005, despite having surpassed 400 and 500 home runs, Griffey remained at Number 93.
While playing with Seattle, Griffey was a 10-time American League Gold Glove winner, the 1992 All-Star Game MVP, 1997 AL MVP, 1998 ESPY co-winner for Male Athlete of the Year, 1999 Players Choice Awards Player of the Decade (by the players), and was named to the All-Century team in 1999.
Griffey used to live in the same neighborhood in Orlando as golfer Payne Stewart. After Stewart's death in a plane crash on October 25, 1999, Griffey started expressing a desire to live closer to his relatives in his hometown of Cincinnati. Not only did Griffey want to live closer but he wanted to be able to raise his kids, Trey and Taryn (Tevin wasn't born at this time). On February 12, 2000, Griffey was traded to the Reds for pitcher Brett Tomko, outfielder Mike Cameron, and minor leaguers Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer. Griffey signed a 9 year $112.5 million dollar contract with the Reds after the trade was completed, with a club option for a tenth.
The 2000 season began what has generally been seen by the media as a decline in Griffey's superstar status. Although his statistics during this season were respectable, they were far below his previous level of play: in 145 games, Griffey hit .271 with 40 home runs, but his .943 on-base plus slugging was his lowest mark in five years. In 2000, Griffey also changed his number from 24 to 30, the number his father wore while playing in both Cincinnati and Seattle. The number 24 was already retired in honor of Tony Pérez. Additionally, from 2001 through 2004, Griffey was plagued by a string of injuries, including season-ending injuries in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Worse yet for Griffey, the cumulative effects of the injuries lowered his bat speed, resulting in less power and fewer home runs (he slugged only .426 before succumbing to injury in 2002, his lowest output in seven years). Injuries forced Griffey to miss 260 out of 486 games from 2002 through 2004, diminishing both his skills and his star reputation.
In 2004, Griffey avoided major injury during the first half of the season, and on June 20 became the 20th player to hit 500 career home runs. His 500th home run came on Father's Day in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, with his father in the stands; the homer tied Griffey with his father in career hits with 2,143. However, the injury bug bit again just before the All-Star break; he suffered a partial hamstring tear, knocking him out of the All-Star Game and putting him on the disabled list yet again.
Griffey finished the 2004 season on the disabled list after suffering a rupture of his right hamstring in San Francisco. The play in question occurred at AT&T Park in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Griffey was starting in right field for the first time in his 16-year Major League career when he raced toward the gap to try to cut off a ball before it got to the wall. He slid as he got to the ball, but in the process hyper-extended his right leg, tearing the hamstring completely off the bone. He later came out of the game, complaining of "tightness" in the hamstring exacerbated by chilly conditions in San Francisco. However, there was far more to it than anyone realized at the time.
Shortly after this injury, the Reds' team physician, Timothy Kremchek, devised an experimental surgery dubbed "The Junior Operation" that would use three titanium screws to reattach Griffey's hamstring. For several weeks, Griffey's right leg was in a sling that kept it at a 90-degree angle, and he was not able to move the leg until late October. After an intense rehabilitation period, he returned for the 2005 season. In April, he hit .244 with one homer (on April 30) and nine RBIs.
Starting May 1, the 2005 season saw the resurgence of a healthy Griffey. His 35 home runs were his highest since his first year with the Reds as Griffey slowly moved up the career home run list. He ended the season tied with Mickey Mantle, after having passed Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, and Eddie Murray.
Early in September, he strained a tendon in his left foot (an injury unrelated to his past hamstring and calf problems), and was listed as day-to-day for several weeks. On September 22, with the Reds out of playoff contention, the team decided to bench him for the rest of the season so he could immediately have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and a separate operation to repair scars from his 2004 hamstring operation. Still, his 128 games in 2005 were the most he had played since 2000. Griffey's resurgence was recognized when he was named National League Comeback Player of the Year. He played in the World Baseball Classic for the American team that off-season with his father as a coach. Griffey batted .524, but the USA failed to reach the semifinals.
During the second game of the 2006 regular season, Griffey hit home run #537, surpassing Mickey Mantle for 12th on the all-time list. He returned on May 11 from a knee injury suffered April 12, and hit a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Washington Nationals. On June 5, Griffey tied Fred McGriff's record by hitting a home run in his 43rd different ballpark, at the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium. On June 19, Griffey hit career home run 548, tying him with Mike Schmidt, and then six days later passed Schmidt with 549. On June 27, he hit his 550th career home run against the Kansas City Royals. On September 25, 2006, Griffey hit his 27th home run of the season against Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Scott Eyre to tie Reggie Jackson for tenth on the all time home run list.
Griffey's injuries continued in the 2006 off-season. While on holiday in the Bahamas with his family, he broke his wrist. Griffey said his hand felt fine and he expected to be ready to go for 2007 spring training.
At the beginning of the 2007 Major League Baseball season, Ryan Freel took over center field for the Reds, and Griffey Jr. was moved to right field. Reds manager Jerry Narron said that "I've got to do everything I can do to put our best club out there. My feeling is that with Ryan Freel out there, it gives us strong defense up the middle." Griffey changed his number from 30 to 3 to honor his three children. During the next two seasons, Griffey would wear number 42 on April 15, beginning a tradition known as Jackie Robinson Day.
On May 10, 2007, Griffey hit his sixth home run of the season and the 569th of his career, tying Rafael Palmeiro for ninth place on the career home runs list. He passed Palmeiro on May 13. Griffey tied Harmon Killebrew for eighth on the all-time list hitting his 573rd career home run on May 22. He then surpassed him on May 25.
On June 22, 2007, Griffey made his first return to Seattle after his trade to the Reds. Before the game, the Mariners honored him with a 15-minute presentation which included a highlight reel of his playing career with the Mariners, a presentation of a "The House that Griffey Built" memorial by Mariners hall-of-famers and former teammates Jay Buhner and Edgar Martínez, and a 4 minute standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. Griffey did not expect such a welcome or a turnout by fans when he came back, and a short but emotional speech was given by Griffey afterwards. Many of the fans in attendance made signs professing their gratitude and adoration toward him with quotes such as: "The House that Griffey Built", "Seattle ♥ Junior", and "Griffey we miss you." Griffey went 1–5 in the game. On June 24, Griffey hit his 583rd and 584th career home runs, tying and passing Mark McGwire for 7th place on the all-time career home run list.
In an interview on an episode of "In My Own Words" with Angie Mentink on FSN Northwest, Griffey stated that he would like to end his career as a Seattle Mariner and that he feels that he owes it to the fans of Seattle: "Would I do it? Yeah. I think for the simple reason that this is the place where I grew up, and I owe it to the people of Seattle and to myself to retire as a Mariner."
Following the Cincinnati Reds versus Seattle Mariners series from June 22–24, 2007, a fan movement emerged petitioning Mariners' management to bring Griffey back. Over 1,900 signatures were collected on a fan vid-blog/petition.
Griffey received the most votes of any player in the National League for the 2007 All-Star balloting and on the July 10 game, he went on to drive in two runs for the National League. On July 16, 2007, Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his 587th home run to pass Frank Robinson for 6th place on the all-time home run list. On July 18, 2007, Griffey hit his 2,500th hit, a first inning single off Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Smoltz.
On September 19, 2007, in a game against the Chicago Cubs, Griffey fielded a Derrek Lee single in right field, then suddenly went down in pain. He was on the ground for several minutes, but eventually walked off under his own power. The injury, first thought to be a lower abdominal strain, was later revealed to be a season-ending groin strain. This marked one of many seasons in Cincinnati in which Griffey had to end the year on the disabled list. Griffey ended the 2007 season with 593 career home runs.
On August 22, 2007, Griffey was selected as an all-time Gold Glove winner, on a list of nine players considered the greatest defensive players in the last fifty years. He finished the season with 78 runs, 146 hits, 24 doubles, one triple, 30 home runs, 93 RBIs, and a .277 batting average.
On April 4, 2008, Ken Griffey, Jr. passed Reggie Jackson for 16th on the all-time list after driving in his 1,702nd RBI. On June 9, Griffey hit his 600th home run on a 3–1 pitch from Mark Hendrickson of the Florida Marlins in the first inning at Land Shark Stadium in Miami. Fans of both teams gave him a standing ovation.
Despite being ranked second in the National League All-Star voting for outfielders for most of the first half of the season, Griffey finished fourth with 2,907,746 ballots, 87,000 votes behind Kosuke Fukudome. He was not selected to the All-Star Game as a reserve. At the All-Star Break, Griffey was batting .239 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. "I always have a backup plan...If you can't hit a tough lefty, bunt. If you can't hit a tough righty, bunt. If you can't go to the All-Star Game, go to the Bahamas," Griffey said.
Griffey was criticized by some for his effort during his stint with the Reds. Gregg Doyel had this to say of the years Griffey was with the Reds in comparison to the 2010 Reds team. "It's a different Reds team than the older, beer-bellied softball teams of recent years. Those Reds were Ken Griffey and Adam Dunn lounging on the clubhouse's leather couches, hitting home runs, misplaying balls in the outfield and thinking they had it all figured out, when all they knew how to do was lose."
On July 31, 2008, at the MLB trade deadline, Griffey was traded to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for pitcher Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar, ending his nine-year tenure in Cincinnati. In his first game with the White Sox, he went 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs, a walk, and a run.
On August 20, 2008, Griffey hit his first home run as a member of the White Sox, off of the Mariners' R. A. Dickey, which moved him into a tie with former Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa for career home runs. He surpassed Sosa on September 23, with one off Minnesota's Matt Guerrier.
On October 30, 2008 the White Sox declined a $16 million option on Griffey, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. Griffey would instead receive a buyout for $4 million, split between the Reds and White Sox. Griffey hit 18 home runs with the Reds and White Sox in 2008.
Griffey accepted a contract offer from the Seattle Mariners to join the team again on February 18, 2009. After declaring free agency, Griffey was courted by the Mariners and the Atlanta Braves, and ultimately decided with the Mariners after "agonizing" over the decision. Griffey was motivated by sentimental reasons toward Seattle, where he received an overwhelmingly positive reception when he last played there as a Cincinnati Red in June 2007, but was inclined towards the Braves for its proximity to his home in Orlando, Florida, and his desire to be with his family during the season. Apparently, Griffey was very close to signing with the Braves; however, a premature report emerged from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that an Atlanta deal was done and a conversation with Willie Mays and his own 13-year-old daughter played a factor in his choice. Griffey once again sported #24 with the Mariners. During the nine seasons (2000–2008) that he was away, the Mariners did not issue the #24 jersey to any player or coaching staff member that passed through (including during spring training).
Griffey went 1–2 with a home run in his regular season debut against the Minnesota Twins. On April 15, 2009, Griffey hit his 400th home run as a Mariner (613th of career) off of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, becoming the first MLB player to hit 400 home runs with one club (Mariners) and 200 home runs with another (Reds). So popular and well respected he was in Seattle, he almost single-handedly transformed what had been a fractured, bickering clubhouse with his leadership, energy and constant pranks.
On June 23, 2009, at Safeco Field, Griffey hit the 5,000th home run in franchise history off of San Diego Padres pitcher Chad Gaudin. This was Griffey's 619th career home run. On September 1, Griffey hit career home run #621 at the new Yankee Stadium off of Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte in the 6th inning. It marked the 44th different ballpark in which he has hit a home run. On August 12, 2009, against his former team, the Chicago White Sox, he hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 14th inning to win the game, 1–0, for the Mariners.
Griffey returned to the Mariners for the 2010 campaign with a similar contract to that of 2009, but struggled offensively over the first two months while posting a mere .184 batting average. On May 20, 2010, in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Griffey hit a walk-off RBI single off Blue Jays' closer Kevin Gregg to win the game, 4–3, for the Mariners. After starting the 9th inning trailing 3–1, the Mariners rallied in the bottom of the 9th to load the bases on 2 singles and a walk, then tied the game at 3 via a walk and a sacrifice fly. The walk-off single was the final hit of Griffey's Major League Baseball career.
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On June 2, 2010, weeks after being taken out of the lineup due to a lack of productivity, Griffey released a statement through the Seattle Mariners organization announcing his retirement from Major League Baseball effective immediately. Griffey retired fifth on the all-time home run list. His retirement was announced at Safeco Field before the Mariners played the Twins and received much praise from the crowd. In an interview on March 17, 2011, Griffey revealed that the only reason he had retired was that he had become a distraction for the team, and not because of any rift with the Mariners or Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu.
A campaign has been formed to rename a section of First Avenue South, which runs adjacent to Safeco Field, to Ken Griffey Jr. Drive.
On February 15, 2011, Griffey was hired by the Mariners as a special consultant. In his return to Seattle, his role is still being defined, but it is confirmed he'll be involved with the Mariners at spring training and the regular season, along with visiting most of the Mariners minor-league affiliates.
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In 2008, Griffey released a series of charity wines to support The Ken Griffey, Jr. Family Foundation, a fund that supports several causes, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and several children's hospitals across the United States of America.
Griffey and his wife Melissa have three children: Trey Griffey, daughter Taryn Kennedy, and adopted son Tevin Kendall. The Griffey family resides in Winter Garden, Florida, where Ken Griffey, Sr. is also a resident.
In January 1988, Griffey, at the age of 18, attempted to commit suicide by swallowing 278 aspirin pills but wound up in intensive care in Providence Hospital in Mount Airy, Ohio. Griffey, Jr. cited arguments with his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., depression, and anger as reasons for his attempted suicide. On his failed attempt, Griffey, Jr. stated, "It seemed like everyone was yelling at me at baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there...I got depressed. I got angry. I didn't want to live." He stated that he had before contemplated taking his own life, however, he had not acted on it until this incident. After swallowing the aspirin, Griffey's girlfriend's mother drove him to the hospital. While in intensive care, he ripped the IV from his arm in order to stop an argument between him and his father. Both Griffey, Jr. and his father have stated that the incident changed their relationship, and there is now more "understanding" on both parts.
When Trey was born in 1994, the Mariners' then-General Manager, Woody Woodward, sent him a player's contract dated 2012. Peter Gammons once wrote in a column that Trey would indeed be the major league's #1 draft pick that year. At age twelve, Trey served as a batboy for the US team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, with his father as a player and his grandfather as a coach. When he was sixteen, Trey seemed to have more of an interest in football, playing linebacker and running back on a youth-league team that includes Shane Larkin, son of Barry Larkin, and now being recruited to play wide receiver in college. He did, however, spend his summers with his father, often being spotted on the field during batting practice and in the dugout during games. Trey Griffey currently attends Dr. Phillips High School near Orlando, Florida where he plays wide receiver for the Panthers. Trey has accepted a scholarship offer to play wide receiver at The University of Arizona beginning in fall 2012.
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