Cleat Geeks

“The Kid” Puts Cherry on Top of Phenomenal Career

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In an interview immediately following his induction announcement on MLB network, Ken Griffey Jr. revealed something interesting. He has played in 3 games at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York. Yet he has never been to the Hall of Fame. In fact, he revealed that he has never even seen the front of the building. “I want to make sure, that the first time I go in, I go in as a member.” He has only seen the back of the building, and to know he deserves to go into the building all you need to do is look at the back of his baseball card. I have been to Cooperstown twice in my life. Now I will have to make it 3 times, and get both my rookie cards signed by the greatest player allowed in the MLB Hall of Fame.

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There was never any doubt that Ken Griffey Jr. was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. In this age of a crowded ballot filled with controversial and highly debatable names, only one player from this year’s ballot stood out as a sure thing. Ken Griffey Jr., on January 6th 2016, becomes the highest all time MLB Hall of Fame vote-getter with 99.3%.  He surpassed Tom Seaver’s previous record of 98.8%. Mike Piazza, the all time homerun leader as a catcher, joined Griffey as the other player to be elected into the most prestigious hall of fame in sports this year. As a player, Griffey was a once in a generation talent who captured the attention and hearts of the baseball world for 20 years especially in the 90s. His legacy went beyond just his monumental career statistics, which will always be viewed as baseball allure. He was one of the biggest superstars in American sports and pop culture.

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It’s simple. Ask anyone, who followed baseball or sports in general in the 90s, who was the coolest player and they will say Ken Griffey Jr. As far as basketball icons are concerned, all kids wanted to be “like Mike”. However, Griffey’s popularity was not far off. He was a stud athlete. He had the infectious, joyful smile. He approached the game with passion and hustle. The list goes on. There are even mentions about the cap on his hall of fame plaque possibly being shown backwards. He turned that into a trend during his playing days, rocking his cap backwards during BP, in the homerun derby and in commercials. His face was everywhere on TV and magazines. He was just cool. Griffey, while never having the opportunity to play in a World Series, was part of the greatest moment in Seattle Mariners history. He scored the game winning run from first on Edgar Martinez’s RBI double to send the Mariners into the 1995 American League Championship Series. That huge game winning hit and run completed an elimination of the New York Yankees in game 5 after facing a 0 games to 2 deficit. It saved baseball in Seattle. Just five years later, the beautiful Safeco Field was inaugurated.

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Many people say Cal Ripken Jr. saved baseball by breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record. It’s not hard to argue that Ken Griffey Jr. added flavor to the game too. He wowed crowds with stellar defense, power and clutch hitting. His numbers and accolades are always going to stand out: 630 homeruns, 1,836 RBI, .538 slugging percentage, .907 OPS, 13 time all star, 10 gold gloves, and the AL MVP award in 1997. Don’t forget his three Homerun Derby wins. He unfortunately spent a lot of time on the DL during the second half of his career which consisted mostly of playing for the Cincinnati Reds. However, after his 2010 retirement, many moved on from the questions of “what if” concerning his health and how many more big numbers he could have had. When he was healthy, he was one of the greatest players in baseball. Reds fans still enjoyed the luxury of seeing him play for his father’s team. His father, Ken Griffey Sr., was a terrific ballplayer with Cincinnati during their Big Red Machine days in the 70’s. Griffey Sr. and Junior homered in the same game with the Mariners in 1990. How’s that for great sports genes in the family? Junior slugged his 500th career homerun on Father’s Day of 2003 with Griffey Sr, in the stands. They embraced in a hug after he crossed the plate and received congrats from his teammates. He learned all he knows about baseball from his dad. It’s the perfect father-son baseball story, given the fact that he went on to become one of the greatest and most popular all around baseball players of all time.

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We will always remember Ken Griffey Jr.’s style, athleticism, personality and oh sweet swing as being iconic as the most revered images from baseball’s all time greats. He broke into the big leagues at 19, making this tough game of baseball look so easy. He can now be found, at 46 years old, attending his kids’ college games as a proud father but to us, he will always be The Kid.

Ken Griffey jr says goodbye

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