By John Boyle
One of the game’s all-time greats, Ken Griffey Jr. isn’t eligible for baseball’s Hall of Fame until 2016, but while Cooperstown must wait, he will receive one honor this summer when he is inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. The Mariners announced Tuesday that Griffey, a 13-time All Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, will be inducted during a pregame ceremony on Aug. 10, making him the seventh member of the Mariners Hall of Fame.
“It means a lot,” Griffey said on a conference call. “It’s something that you dream about. It’s the organization that you were drafted by and a celebration of your career. It means a whole lot that they would think that highly of me and what I’ve done to be able to put my name up there with the rest of the guys.”
Griffey, the No. 1 pick of the 1987 draft, played for the Mariners from 1989 until he was traded to Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season. Griffey returned to Seattle to finish his career, playing for the Mariners in 2009 and part of 2010 before retiring.
Griffey, who ranks sixth in MLB history with 630 career home runs, led the league in home runs four times, and was the American League MVP in 1997.
“Like all Mariners fans, I consider it a privilege to have watched Ken Griffey Jr. grow up before us to become one of the greatest players in baseball and a true gentleman,” Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said in a press release. “He was a naturally gifted athlete who played the game with pure joy. We are proud to welcome Ken to the Mariners Hall of Fame and look forward to the day in January 2016, when he gets the call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Griffey will join Alvin Davis (1997), Dave Niehaus (2000), Jay Buhner (2004), Edgar Martinez (2007), Randy Johnson (2012) and Dan Wilson (2012) in the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Griffey said it will be special to join the Mariners Hall of Fame with former teammates and friends like Buhner, Martinez, Johnson and Wilson.
“These are the guys…We played hard, had fun, learned from each other,” he said. “The biggest thing was that we were all really young enough to not know any better and have egos, we just wanted to play baseball, and everybody took care of everybody. (During the strike) we were all playing golf together. We were the lousiest golfers, but on any given day, you’d find Edgar, Jay, me, Randy out there losing a couple dozen golf balls a round, and we still have that friendship.”
Of Griffey’s many accomplishments, a unique one was the fact that he played with his father, Ken Griffey Sr., early in his career. That wasn’t a good time for Griffey just for sentimental reasons, but also because he learned a lot from watching his father’s approach to the game.
“Having him batting second and me batting third,” he said. “Having someone that looked like me—or I looked like him—stand there in front of me and I watched how he handled pitchers and what he needed to do at (40)-years-old. He set up pitchers better than anyone I have seen, and just to have someone there that could do it and basically when he would come home tell you what he would try to do.”