|THE NATURAL IN EVERY WAY.|
|WORTHLESS TRIVIA: HE WAS ON MY FANTASY TEAM IN '89.|
DEFINING THE PLAYER
- The Mickey Mantle to a generation of baseball card collectors, Ken Griffey Jr. was the icon of the booming collectibles industry and the game itself. An all-around star with widespread appeal off the field like Mantle, Griffey became the face of the upstart collectibles company Upper Deck. In the end, Griffey sold a lot of cards and autographs, hit a bunch of homers and made some spectacular catches in center field. He finished with 630 jacks and a career slash line of .284/.370/.538. The sudden deterioration of his skills, while painful at times to watch, only proved what many suspected: He put together a 22-year Hall of Fame career without the aid of performance enhancing drugs. He was The Natural.
- It's not often a player's defining moment saves baseball in a city, but Griffey's did in 1995 in the AL Division Series for Seattle. On Oct. 8 in Game 5, the Yankees led 5-4 going into the bottom of the 11th. Joey Cora and Griffey reached on hits before #190 Edgar Martinez's double drove both home. The scene of Griffey sliding home to beat the throw and then being engulfed by teammates at home in the Kingdome is one of the game's signature moments. The series win and euphoria of an unexpected playoff run built political momentum for the construction of Safeco Field and cementing the Mariners' future in the city.
- Hard to believe Griffey won only one AL MVP. It's true. In '97, Griffey hit a career-high 56 homers, drove in a major-league-leading 147 runs and scored 125 times. He slashed .304/.382/.646, leading the AL in slugging. He also won his eighth consecutive Gold Glove in center field; he'd win a total of 10.
FIVE FINAL FACTS
- Born in Denora, Pa., home of another fellow who could ball: Stan Musial.
- The first overall pick in the '87 draft by the Mariners.
- Along with dad Ken Griffey Sr., they became the first father-son duo to play on the same team at the same time with the Mariners in '90 and '91. On Sept. 14, 1990, off Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill, they became the first father-son to homer back-to-back.
- Traded to his hometown Reds in '00 for basically center fielder Mike Cameron and starting pitcher Brett Tomko, a deal that actually worked out quite well for the Mariners. Two years later, they would set the major-league record for victories in a season with 116, the middle of a four-year run of 90-plus wins a season.
- Meanwhile, Griffey's nine years in Cincinnati can only be summed up as disappointing. He battled injuries and never recaptured the magic he had in Seattle. He averaged 24 homers, 69 RBI with a slash line of .273/.363/.524.
|THIS ICONIC CARD TURNS 25 THIS YEAR.|