Ken Griffey Jr. returned to Seattle on Saturday to be honored by the Mariners. Griffey is arguably the greatest player to ever wear the M’s jersey, so it was only fitting the team inducted him into their Hall of Fame.
But the emotional ceremony is likely just the start for the former MLB player, who holds the sixth spot in home runs ever scored. But even without the honor, Griffey’s stamp on Seattle was evident.
During his baseball career, Junior scored an impressive 630 home runs, made 13 appearances in the All Star Game, and won 10 straight Golden Glove honors, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Ken Griffey Jr.’s pro baseball career began with the Mariners, who drafted him at the age of 17. His first appearance at the team’s former Kingdome stadium was perhaps indicative of his 22-year career. His first at-bat ended with a home run over the stadium’s left-field wall.
Along with his iconic No. 24 jersey, Griffey was also known for his backwards baseball cap, his unique way of holding the bat, and his impressive catches climbing the center field wall.
ESPN notes that Ken Griffey Jr. now joins late broadcaster Dave Niehaus and former teammates Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson, and Dan Wilson in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame.
But among them, “The Kid” still stands out. In his almost hour-long speech (25 minutes longer than scheduled), Griffey showed his true self once more to Seattle, saying, “I am truly honored and humbled to be associated with these people here.” He also attempted to direct the attention away from himself yet again by focusing on the other six men in the M’s Hall of Fame.
He joked about Johnson and Davis and called Martinez the best right-handed hitter he ever played with. He also spoke of Wilson’s passion for the game. But his most heartfelt messages by far were for Dave Niehaus’ wife, Marilyn, and for Buhner. The late broadcaster not only called Griffey’s first home run, he also called No. 630.
As for Buhner, Griffey talked about their close friendship they developed while playing outfield for the Mariners for most of the 1990s. As Buhner wiped tears away, Griffey commented, “There is no other person in the world, other than my parents, that if something happened to me or my wife, that I would want to raise my kids.”
The entire Mariners roster also honored Griffey in their own way — they all stood on the railing of the first base dugout with their hats backward. A 24 was also emblazoned on Safeco Field’s center field grass, another tribute to the player who spent 13 years with the Mariners
Do you remember watching Ken Griffey Jr. play for the Mariners? Who was your favorite baseball player of that era?
[Image by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons]