Griffey, Ken, Jr.

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Ken Griffey, Jr.

1969-

American baseball player

With his leaping-over-the-wall catches and power-packed home run swing, Ken Griffey, Jr., is one of the best all-around players major league baseball has ever seen. His mastery of both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game, coupled with his childish enthusiasm and glittery smile, made him one of the game's most popular heroes. In 1994, Griffey received a record 6,079,688 votes for the All-Star Game, surpassing the old record of most votes by nearly two million. In four of his first eleven seasons, Griffey led the American League in home runs, leading many to believe

he would shatter Hank Aaron 's all-time career home run record of 755. However, Griffey's weakness has been in being human, and injuries have kept him off pace. Another interesting facet of Griffey's career is that he and his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., played together for the Seattle Mariners in 1990-1991, making them the first father-and-son duo to play on the same team together. Over the years, Griffey has touched many lives off the field through his involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When children wish to meet Griffey, he willingly goes to say hello.

Spent Childhood at Ballpark Watching Father

George Kenneth Griffey, Jr., better known as Ken Griffey, Jr., or simply "Junior," was born November 21, 1969, in Donora, Pennsylvania, to Alberta and Ken Griffey, Sr. At the time, Griffey's father had just completed his first minor league season in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Early on, Griffey began imitating his father. By the time he could walk, he was swinging a chunky, plastic baseball bat.

To say baseball was in Griffey's blood is an under-statement. His grandfather, Buddy Griffey, played ball at Donora High School alongside Stan Musial . In 1973, Ken Griffey, Sr., was called up to play for the Reds, and the family relocated to Cincinnati. Griffey and his little brother, Craig, spent their childhoods at Riverfront Stadium in pint-sized Cincinnati Reds uniforms. As children, the Griffey boys hung out with stars like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench , and Tony Perez.

The elder Griffey quickly established himself as a baseball star. He was part of Cincinnati's famed "Big Red Machine," which won the 1975 and 1976 World Series. It became apparent that Griffey was a chip off the old block as soon as he began playing organized baseball. Because Griffey was so much better than the other players, parents on the opposing teams thought he was too old to play in the league. His mother had to carry his birth certificate to games to prove he belonged.

Though Griffey's father traveled during the baseball season, he remained close to his sons and taught them valuable lessons. Once, when Griffey was a teen, he smacked a crowd-awing homer and rounded the bases pumping his fists. His father caught him at home platewith a lecture about sportsmanship. Griffey never flaunted his talent again.

At Moeller High School, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound teen starred on both the football and baseball teams. By his senior year, Griffey was pegged as a future major leaguer and baseball scouts came out in full force, sometimes outnumbering fans in the stands.

Picked No. 1 in Baseball Draft

Because of his promising future, Griffey was the first player picked in the June 2, 1987, draft. He received a $160,000 signing bonus from the Seattle Mariners, a 1977 expansion team that had yet to have a winning season. Two days after the draft, Griffey graduated from high school. Four days later, on June 8, he took batting practice with the Mariners in Seattle. By June 11, he was in Bellingham, Washington, on the roster for one of the Mariners' farm teams, and on June 16, he played his first minor league game.

For Griffey, the transition of going straight from high school to work proved tough. At seventeen, he was on his own for the first time, traveling the country in an aging bus. Nonetheless, Griffey made his mark in the Northwest League. By the end of the fifty-four-game season, he'd batted .313. He led his team with homers (14), Runs Batted In (RBIs) (40), and steals (13). Baseball America magazine named him the league's top major league prospect.

Chronology

1969Born November 21 in Donora, Pennsylvania
1979Begins playing Little League baseball
1983Enters Cincinnati's Moeller High School
1987Drafted on June 2 as first-round, first pick by Seattle Mariners
1987Plays in the minors in the Northwest League on a team based in Bellingham, Washington
1988Swallows aspirin overdose in apparent suicide attempt in January
1988Plays in the California League for the San Bernardino Spirit
1989Attends Mariners training camp; plays so well he earns position on roster
1989Makes major league debut on April 3
1990Makes baseball history in August when his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., joins the Mariners and the Griffeys become the first father-son teammates in baseball history
1994Becomes father on January 19 when Trey Kenneth Griffey is born
1995Becomes father again on October 21 as Taryn Kennedy Griffey is born
1995Fractures wrist on May 26; misses 73 games
2000Traded from Seattle Mariners to Cincinnati Reds on February 10
2000Plagued with sore knee and partially torn hamstring throughout season
2001Partially tears hamstring during spring training on March 26

Awards and Accomplishments

1987Named best major-league prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America magazine
1988Named best major-league prospect in the California League by Baseball America magazine
1990-99Earned American League Gold Glove Award
1990-2000Named to the All-Star Team
1991, 1993-94, 1996-99,Earned Silver Slugger Award
1992Named All-Star Game MVP
1993Became fifth player in history to hit 100 home runs before 24th birthday
1993Set American League outfielder record for most consecutive chances (573) without an error
1993Tied major league record for hitting homers in eight consecutive games
1993Led league in total bases (359) and extra base hits (86)
1994Led American League in home runs (40)
1994Won Make-A-Wish Foundation's Celebrity Wish-Granter of the Year Award
1996Smacked three homers in one game
1997Set major league record for most home runs in April with 13
1997Led American League in runs scored (125), home runs (56), and runs batted in (147); led entire major league in runs batted in (147)
1997Named American League Most Valuable Player
1997Named Sporting News Player of the Year
1998Smacked 300th career home run
1998Led American League in home runs (56)
1999Led league in home runs (48)
2000Became youngest player (30 years, 141 days) to hit 400 homers
2001Became youngest player (31 years, 261 days) to hit 450th homer

Griffey had had a whirlwind year of change, and living in Washington he had experienced racial slurs. He struggled to come to terms with all the changes and pressures he had endured and in January 1988, Griffey swallowed more than 250 aspirin. He didn't talk about the suicide attempt until 1992, when he recounted the event to a reporter in hopes of discouraging others from doing the same.

Made Major Leagues at 19

In spring 1989, Griffey joined the Mariners at training camp and ended the pre-season with a fifteen-game hitting streak and a .359 average. Though he was young, his inexperience never showed. Instead of sending Griffey back to the minors, the Mariners decided to add him to their major league roster as a center fielder. At 19, Griffey was the youngest player in the league.

It didn't take long for Griffey to establish himself. He made spectacular defensive plays, digging his spikes into the padded outfield wall and reaching up over the top, turning home runs into outs. He made diving catches other players wouldn't attempt, then gunned down runners on base. Suddenly, Seattle was interested in baseball.

By mid-July 1989, Griffey's .287 batting average topped all American League rookies. He slipped in the shower July 24 and fractured a hand bone, putting him out for a month. When Griffey returned, he struggled at the plate trying to make up for lost time and put himself back in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Though Griffey ended the season without capturing the rookie award, he did capture the hearts of millions of baseball fans. Former Seattle Mariners manager Jim Lefebvre recalled Griffey's magic in an issue of the Seattle Times, "Here it was my first time managing, and I've got a budding superstar with me, learning every day, captivating all the fans throughout the country. Each day, he'd go out and do something where you'd say, 'God, that's unbelievable. I've never seen that.' Next day, he'd so something else. It was just such a thrill to watch him play with that zest, that enthusiasm, that great talent."

Turned Baseball into a Family Affair

Griffey's second season, 1990, was just as thrilling. The highlight of the season, however, occurred in August when his father, recently released by the Cincinnati Reds, joined the Mariners. On August 31, 1990, they became the first father-son duo to play on a major league team together. The Griffeys comprised twothirds of the Mariner outfield, with Junior Griffey playing center and Griffey Sr. playing left. They also followed each other in the lineup. On September 14, 1990, the duo hit back-to-back homers. It's a record that will likely never be broken.

For father and son, the chance to play together was the dream of a lifetime. Griffey's words in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speak about the experience. "I got to play with my dad. I got to go to work with him. That's the biggest thing that ever happened to me other than the days my kids were born. That's bigger than any record I'll ever set. To play alongside him was the best."

Became Home Run Champ

Griffey continued to wow fans and in 1992 made his third All-Star appearance. He belted three hits, including a homer off Greg Maddux , to win the game's MVP award. In 1993, Griffey proved himself a productive hitter. That season, he clobbered forty-five home runs, batted .309, drove in 109 runs, and led the league with 359 total bases. In addition, his fielding was superb. He set an American League outfielder record for handling 573 consecutive chances without an error. He also hit eight home runs in eight consecutive games, tying a major-league record set by Pittsburgh Pirate Dale Long in 1956 and New York Yankee Don Mattingly in 1987.

Related Biography: Baseball Player Ken Griffey, Sr.

Ken Griffey, Sr., was born April 10, 1950, in Donora, Pennsylvania, the same city Stan Musial hailed from. Like other Donora children of that time, Griffey grew up playing baseball and dreamed of following in Musial's footsteps.

In 1969, the Cincinnati Reds drafted Griffey in the 29th round. He spent four years in the minors and in 1973 was called up to play in the Reds outfield. As Griffey heated up, so did the Reds, and he became a part of the legendary "Big Red Machine," which won the 1975 and 1976 World Series.

Griffey Sr. made the All-Star team in 1976, 1977, and 1980, and was named All-Star MVP in 1980. In 1982, he was traded to the New York Yankees. The trade was hard on the family, which stayed behind in Cincinnati. Junior Griffey was just coming into his own as a baseball star when his father left. When he needed help-or was in big trouble-he flew to New York for a consultation with his dad. Under Yankee stadium, the elder Griffey spent many hours coaching- and lecturing-his son.

By 1990, Griffey Sr. had spent eighteen years in the majors when he was released by the Cincinnati Reds partway through the season. He signed with the Seattle Mariners and hit .377 for the remainder of the season, proving the move was more than a publicity stunt to unite the father and son.

Though the two are often compared, they know they are different people. As Griffey Sr. wrote in Sports Illustrated, "I don't feel overshadowed by him. He had shortcuts-like my teaching him how to hit, how to turn on the ball, how to stay out of slumps-and while my career may not get me into the Hall of Fame, how many guys can say they hit .296 over 19 years and played on two World Series winners?"

After retiring in 1991, Griffey Sr. became a Reds coach. When Junior Griffey was traded to the Reds in 2000, he got to coach his son. By 2002, the elder Griffey was working as a scouting consultant for the team.

Griffey's streak continued into 1994. On May 20, he became the third-youngest player to reach 150 career homers. He'd smacked thirty-two homers through June to break Babe Ruth 's mark of most homers (30) through June. As Griffey's streak continued, he seemed on pace to break Roger Maris 's single-season home run record of 61. For the fifth-straight year, Griffey was voted to the All-Star team, this time receiving a phenomenal 6,079,688 votes, surpassing the old record of most votes received by Rod Carew in 1977, when he brought in 4,292,740 votes. However, in early August, a labor dispute between players and owners closed the season early, canceling the Mariners' last fifty games. Griffey ended the season with forty home runs, twenty-two shy of beating the single-season record. Had he played the last fifty games, it's conceivable that Griffey would have broken the record four years before slugger Mark McGwire did.

Griffey's 1995 and 1996 seasons were marred by injuries. Though he sat out twenty games in 1996, Griffey still orchestrated his best season ever. He hit .303, belted 49 home runs, and batted in 140 runs in just 140 games.

Griffey was hot again in 1997. On September 7, he smacked his fiftieth homer of the year, making him the fifteenth major leaguer of all time to reach fifty homers in one season. He led the American League in home runs (56) and runs scored (125). His 147 RBI led both the American and National leagues. For his offensive prowess, Griffey received the 1997 American League MVP award. The Mariners finished with a 90-72 record and faced the Baltimore Orioles in a best-of-five playoff series, which they lost.

Returned to Cincinnati, Struggled

Though Griffey continued to put up the numbers into the late 1990s, the Mariners did not, and Griffey grew frustrated about his lack of a championship. With a shaky bullpen, the team couldn't win. Unhappy, Griffey forced a trade after the 1999 season. Much to his delight, he landed with the Cincinnati Reds.

Cincinnati went wild with the news that Griffey was "coming home." In the announcement, Reds General Manager Jim Bowden declared, according to The Seattle Times "February 10, 2000, will go down in Reds' history, major-league history, as the day the Michael Jordan of baseball came home to Cincinnati."

Griffey signed a nine-year, $116.5 million deal. His yearly salary stood at $12.5 million, with the rest of the money deferred. The pressure mounted. Cincinnati was counting on Griffey to return the team to the World Series. With such high hopes, Griffey bombed. His time in Cincinnati was marred by injury and ill feelings with teammates who thought he got special treatment. Leg injuries in both the 2001 and 2002 seasons restricted him to 181 games total, and he smacked just 30 homers.

Frustrated with his injuries and slump, Griffey developed an edge. Teammates and media began to characterize him as a whiner and a spoiled brat. By 2002, Griffey's wife, Melissa, quit attending games because fans were abusing her, telling her to return to Seattle and take her husband with her. By December 2002, there was talk he would be traded.

When he's not busy with baseball, Griffey resides with his family in Orlando, Florida. He and his wife met at an alcohol-free dance club. They married after Griffey's 1992 season. They have three children, Trey and Taryn, along with Tevin, whom they adopted in 2002.

Griffey is also active in the Make-A-Wish Foundation and several times a year joins with children whose dream is to meet him. In addition, since 1994, he has sponsored a yearly Christmas dinner for youngsters from a local Boys and Girls Club. He also flies in to

Cincinnati children from the Seattle and Orlando Boys and Girls Clubs. He takes them to the amusement park, then brings them to the ballpark to watch him play.

Even if Griffey isn't able to get healthy and reclaim his position among the game's elite, he will still be remembered. After all, he made the All-Century Team in 1999. That puts him in the company of Hank Aaron and Ted Williams . Griffey may have faded from the spotlight after the turn of the century, but he has far from faded in the eyes of those who have seen him work his magic, leaping over walls to catch would-be home runs, or smacking picture-perfect homers. Those snapshots won't be forgotten.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: 100 Cinergy Field, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. Fax: (513) 421-7342. Phone: (513) 421-4510. Email: [email protected] Online: http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/cin/homepage/cin_homepage.jsp.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY GRIFFEY:

(Edited by Mark Vancil) Junior: Griffey on Griffey, HarperCollins, 1997.

Career Statistics

YrTeamAvgGPABRHHRRBIBBSOSBE
CIN: Cincinnati Reds; SEA: Seattle Mariners.
1989SEA.26412745561120166144831610
1990SEA.3001555979117922806381167
1991SEA.32715454876179221007182184
1992SEA.30814256583174271034467101
1993SEA.309156582113180451099691173
1994SEA.3231114339414040905673114
1995SEA.2587226052671742525342
1996SEA.3031405451251654914078104164
1997SEA.3041576081251855614776121156
1998SEA.2841616331201805614676121205
1999SEA.2851606061231734813491108249
2000CIN.271145520100141401189411765
2001CIN.286111364571042265447223
2002CIN.264701971752823283913
TOTAL.2951,8616,9131,2372,0394681,3589131,21217666

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Gutman, Bill. Ken Griffey Jr.: A Biography. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.

Reiser, Howard. Ken Griffey, Jr. (The Kid). Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Stewart, Mark. Ken Griffey, Jr., All-American Slugger. New York: Children's Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Cannella, Stephen. "Great Pains: Another Injury Could Cost Ken Griffey Jr. Another Year-and a Chance to Restore his Rep." Sports Illustrated (April 15, 2002): 79.

Cannella, Stephen. "Junior Achievement." Sports Illustrated (May 20, 2002): 46.

Eisenbath, Mike. "5 Questions." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 1, 2001).

Griffey, Ken. "My Son, The Ballplayer." Sports Illustrated (June 21, 1999): 29.

"Griffey Inks $116.5 Million Deal With Cincinnati Reds." Jet (February 28, 2000): 48.

Massie, Jim. "Junior Finds His Return Taxing." Columbus Dispatch (September 22, 2000).

Stone, Larry. "Ken Griffey Jr. Down & Out at Home." Seattle Times (June 16, 2002).

"The Griffeys: Major-League Baseball's First Father-and-Son Pair." Ebony (September 1989): 78.

Other

"Junior Keeps Griffey Sr. in Cincinnati." ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/mlb/news/2002/0224/1340065.html (December 13, 2002).

"Ken Griffey Jr." ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=4305 (December 11, 2002).

Ken Griffey Jr. Adventures in Baseball. Stamford, Connecticut: Capital Cities/ABC Video Publishers, Inc., 1996.

"Ken Griffey Jr. Statistics." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/griffke02.shtml (December 6, 2002).

"Ken Griffey Sr. Statistics." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/griffke01.shtml (December 12, 2002).

Sketch by Lisa Frick

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