BY SPNW Staff 04:15PM 01/06/2016

The best of ‘The Natural,’ Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr., who hit 630 home runs in his 22-year major league career, including 417 in a Seattle uniform, entered the Baseball Hall of Fame Wednesday.

Griffey waives to a sold-out throng at Safeco Field. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Ken Griffey Jr., who played 22 seasons in the major leagues, including 13 with the Mariners (1989-99, ’09-10), Wednesday became the first player drafted and developed by the franchise to earn election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Griffey received landslide backing, collecting a record 99.3 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America. As was the case last year with Randy Johnson, whose Seattle career (1989-98) coincided with Griffey’s, Griffey gained enshrinement in his first year of eligibility.

A native of Donora, PA., Griffey joined the Mariners organization in 1987 when the club selected him No. 1 overall in that year’s amateur draft. He rose swiftly through the club’s minor league system and reached the major leagues as a 19-year-old in 1989, when he began the first of two tenures with the Mariners, and by far the greatest.

Ken Griffey Jr. - Seattle Mariners 2010 HS

Griffey Jr. played for the Mariners from 1989-99, and again from 2009-10.

The first stint ended when Griffey departed for Cincinnati in a multi-player trade in 2000. He returned to Seattle in 2009 for his last full season with the club. Seventeen years old when he began his professional career, Griffey retired early in 2010 at 40.

A 10-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and the 1997 unanimous American League Most Valuable Player with the Mariners, Griffey is the most significant player in Seattle baseball history. During his first 10 seasons, Griffey became the club’s first major gate attraction, its first superstar, its first annual All-Star starter, its most forceful personality and the main reason the franchise escaped its dubious history to become a Northwest summer-entertainment fixture.

In late August 1995, Griffey hit the home run that launched the Mariners on their historic run to the AL West title, scored the run that beat the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS that saved baseball in Seattle and, in 1999, was named one of the 100 greatest players of the 20th century and the Player of the Decade for the 1990s.

Following eight, injury-plagued seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and a brief run with the Chicago White Sox, a 39-year-old Griffey, after a 10-year absence from Seattle, returned to the Mariners for the 2009 season.

Griffey was instrumental in the Mariners defeating the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS.

Although only a shadow of his former self – he hit .214 in 117 appearances while dividing time at designated hitter with Mike Sweeney – Griffey managed 19 home runs and was cheered constantly by an appreciative Mariner faithful for his career achievements.

“The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists” selected Griffey the No. 1 athlete in Washington state sports history in 2009. But by 2010, Griffey had nothing left in his tank. Batting .184 with no home runs and seven RBIs, Griffey abruptly left the team June 2, 2010. He never played again.

But in his prime, no one was better, as the Society for American Baseball Research noted in its official biography of Griffey.

“While the honor of having the sweetest swing in baseball may seem like it’s a subjective one, few would disagree that Ken Griffey Jr. possessed the sweetest swing there ever was,” SABR’s Emily Hawks wrote. “He was a natural, and his inborn abilities coupled with his youthful enthusiasm ignited an entire city’s passion for baseball.

“Behind the center-field wall at Seattle’s Safeco Field, beneath the feet of the fans donning backwards baseball caps as a tribute to ‘The Kid,’ one can find two special bricks installed when the stadium opened in 1999. The brick on the left reads “Trey + Taryn Griffey,” and the brick on the right, “The House Their Father Built.”


  • Named to 10 consecutive American League All-Star teams during his first tenure with the Mariners (1989-99); also the winner of 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards during that stretch.
  • One of six players in history to hit 600 or more home runs.
  • One of seven players with 40 home runs in six seasons.
  • Four-time American League home run champion, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999.
  • Posted back-to-back seasons of 50 or more home runs in 1997 and 1998 (56 both seasons).
  • 1997 American League RBI leader (147).
  • 1993 and 1997 American League total bases leader.
  • Mariners’ all-time leader in home runs, multi-home run games, slugging percentage and intentional walks.
  • Hit three home runs against the Yankees May 24, 1996 and three against the Toronto Blue Jays April 25, 1997.
  • Franchise leader in grand slams with 12.
  • Had six RBIs in a game four times – June 13, 1994 against Texas; May 24, 1996 against New York; Sept. 7, 1998 against Baltimore; April 29, 1999 against Detroit.
  • Homered in eight consecutive games July 20-28, 1993, to tie the major league record.
  • Had five hits in a game twice, July 18, 1991, against Milwaukee, and July 2, 1994, against New York.
  • Won All-Star Game Home Run Derby three times (1994, 1998, 1999).
  • 1992 All-Star Game MVP, 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award by Baseball America, 1997 AL MVP (unanimous), 1997 Player of the Year (The Sporting News), 1999 selected one of the top 100 players of all time by The Sporting News, 2000 named Major League Player of the Decade (1990s) by The Sporting News.


Griffey was well ahead of Hank Aaron’s career home run pace until a series of injuries derailed his bid. / Sports Illustrated

April 3, 1989 / First at-bat: Facing Oakland ace Dave Stewart in the Coliseum, Griffey swung at the second pitch he saw and drove the ball off the wall in left-center for a double. Said Seattle manager Jim Lefebvre: “Griffey is going to make any manager look very good.”

April 10, 1989 / First homer: Smacked a liner over the fence in left off Eric King in Seattle’s 6–5 win over the White Sox in the Kingdome. After completing his first home run trot, Griffey said, “I really didn’t think it was going out because I didn’t see it after I hit it.”

April 26, 1990 / Wall climber: Robbed Jesse Barfield of what would have been Barfield’s 200th career home run with an over-the-wall catch in the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium that drew a standing ovation.

Aug. 31, 1990 / Father and son: Ken Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr. became the first father-son tandem in major league history to play as teammates. In the bottom of the first inning, they drilled back-to-back singles off Storm Davis in what became a 5-2 win over Kansas City. Said Griffey Jr.: “I was so happy, I wanted to cry.”

Sept. 14, 1990 / Father and son: The Griffeys hit back-to-back home runs off the Angels’ Kirk McCaskill, becoming the first father and son in MLB history to homer in the same game. “It’s something we’ve talked about doing and it finally happened,” said Junior.

July 14, 1992 / All-Star show: Griffey stroked a single and a double and homered off Greg Maddux in the American League’s 13-6 win over the National League, becoming the first Mariners player named MVP of the All-Star Game.

Griffey, aka “Spiderman” snags a shot off the center field wall in the Kingdome in 1995. / Seattle Mariners

June 15, 1993 / 100th homer: Griffey belted a 390-foot home run off Billy Brewer in a 6-1 victory over Kansas City, becoming the sixth-youngest (23 years, 6 months, 25 days) player to reach 100 career homers. Only Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench and Hank Aaron reached 100 homers faster.

July 13, 1993 / Camden clout: Griffey became the first player to hit the B&O Warehouse beyond wall in right at Camden Yards, reaching the facade during the All-Star Home Run Derby with a shot estimated at 460 feet.

July 28, 1993 / Eight in a row: Griffey hit a home run in his eighth consecutive consecutive game to tie the major league record set by Dale Long (1956) and later matched by Don Mattingly (1987). “As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best thing that’s happened to the game in a long time,” said Seattle C Dave Valle.

In a humorous campaign, Griffey ran for President in 1996.

April 24, 1994 / Long shot: Griffey belted a game-winning, 438-foot home run that landed in front of the B&O Warehouse on Eutaw Street, the longest homer by a left hander in Camden Yards history. Griffey’s blast came at the expense of Brad Pennington, who had just taken over for Baltimore starter Jamie Moyer.

May 20, 1994 / 150th homer: Griffey hit his 150th homer to become, at 24 years and five months, the third-youngest to reach that plateau, trailing Mel Ott (23 years, 6 months) and Eddie Matthews (23 years, 10 months).

June 17, 1994 / Joining Babe: Socked his 30th home run of the season to join Babe Ruth as the only players to hit 30 before June 30. “That was hit as hard as I’ve seen a ball hit in my life,” said manager Lou Piniella.

July 2, 1994 / Record vote: Set an MLB record by receiving 6,079,688 All-Star votes, breaking the old mark of 4.2 million by Rod Carew (1977). “With friends stuffing ballot boxes,’’ quipped Griffey, “anything is possible.”

May 26, 1995 / Spiderman act: Broke two bones in his left wrist making a Spiderman-like catch against the Kingdome’s right-field wall, an injury that forced him out for 73 games. “It didn’t hurt at all at first,’’ said Griffey. “Then I looked at it and knew it was broken.”

Aug. 24, 1995 / Yankee killer: On the verge of losing a one-run decision to the Yankees and damaging their wild-card hopes, the Mariners pulled out a 9-7 win when Griffey, just off the DL, stroked a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off John Wetteland.

Griffey became a hit with fans from the moment he showed up at the Kingdome. / DR Collection

Sept. 28, 1995 / Salami time: Snapped an eighth-inning tie against Texas with a grand slam off Roger Pavlik that gave the Mariners a 6-2 win that kept Seattle two games ahead of the Angels in the AL West race.

Oct. 8, 1995 / Safe at home: In the 11th inning of Game 5 of a deadlocked ALDS series against the Yankees, Griffey steamed around the bases following Edgar Martinez’s double to give the Mariners a dramatic 6-5 win and their first playoff series victory.

Jan. 31, 1996 / Highest paid: Became baseball’s highest-paid player by signing a four-year, $34 million contract. Griffey agreed to defer $1.2 million per year so the Mariners could stay under their $35 million payroll.

April 12, 1996 / Hard rocker: Not only took Toronto’s Giovanni Carrara deep, but took him ABOVE the SkyDome’s Hard Rock Cafe. The 451-foot shot marked just the fourth ball hit into the SkyDome’s fourth deck.

May 21, 1996 / 200th homer: Homered off Vaughn Eshelman of Boston to become the seventh youngest – 26 years, 181 days – to reach that plateau, trailing Mel Ott (25-144), Eddie Mathews (25-242), Jimmie Foxx (25-266), Mickey Mantle (25-279), Frank Robinson (25-360) and Hank Aaron (26-148).

Ken Griffey Jr. is out of the box, but not the shadows quite yet / KPA Sports, Wikimedia Commons

May 24, 1996 / Yankee killer: Hit three homers, scored five times and drove in six as the Mariners defeated New York 10-4. “You sign a big contract,’’ said Griffey, “and if you don’t deliver from Day One, they jump all over you.”

April 25, 1997 / 250th homer: Homered off Toronto’s Mike Timlin, becoming the fourth youngest, at 27 years, 155 days, to reach that plateau, trailing only Jimmie Foxx (26-269), Eddie Mathews (26-320) and Mel Ott (27-094).

June 18, 1997 / Lineups: During a Mariners-Giants game, became one of four sons of former players to play in the same contest: Ken Griffey Jr. (Ken Sr.), Jose Cruz Jr. (Jose Sr.), Barry Bonds (Bobby), and Stan Javier (Julian).

Nov. 14, 1997 / MVP: Became the 13th unanimous MVP in MLB history after hitting 56 home runs and driving in 147 runs. “This award means a lot,’’ Griffey said. “Kids always think about being the MVP.”

April 13, 1998 / 300th Homer: Belted two home runs, becoming the second-youngest to reach 300 at 28 years, 143 days. Jimmie Foxx hit his 300th at 27 years 328 days. “I think he’ll hit 600,” said Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. “You can see he wants it.”

July 1, 1998 / Extra Bases: Lashed a home run and three doubles for 13 total bases – the most by a Mariner since Mickey Brantley had 14 total bases in 1987 – in a 9-5 victory over Colorado at the Kingdome.

Randy Johnson (center) and Dan Wilson (to Johnson’s right) entered the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2012. Three other club Hall of Famers: Jay Buhner, far left, and Edgar Martinez, to Johnson’s left, and Ken Griffey Jr.

Sept. 15, 1998 / 1,000th run: Drove in the 1,000th run of his career in a 12-7 win over the Twins, becoming the fourth-youngest to reach the milestone. “There is only one word I can use to describe him — spectacular,’’ said Seattle batting coach Jesse Barfield. “To do what he has done and still be only 28 years old is unbelievable.”

June 27, 1999 / Done at dome: Hit the last home run in Kingdome history, a three-run shot off Aaron Sele, in Seattle’s 5-2 victory over the Rangers. “I’ve been here 11 years,’’ Griffey said. “It’s like if you move out of your home, you’re going to miss that. I know all the ins and outs of this ballpark.”

Sept. 22, 1999 / 398th homer: Smacked a two-run home run off Jay Witasick of Kansas City for the 398th home run of his Seattle career – and what turned out to be his final home run before his trade to the Cincinnati Reds.

Feb. 10, 2000 / The trade: Traded to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Brett Tomko, OF Mike Cameron, IF Antonio Perez,and RHP Jake Meyer. “I think we just traded Babe Ruth,” said a stunned club president Chuck Armstrong.

Ken Griffey Jr., who spent the bulk of his career with the Mariners, became the 12th recipient of baseball’s Historic Achievement Award. / Wiki Commons

April 10, 2000 / 400th homer: Belted his 400th career home run, a solo shot off Roland Arroyo in the fourth inning, and added a sacrifice fly in a 7-5 Cincinnati loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

June 18, 2002 / 2,000th hit: Recorded his 2,000th career hit, an infield single off Seattle’s Joel Pineiro, in Cincinnati’s 8-1 loss to the Mariners at Cynergy Field.

June 20, 2004 / 500th homer: Swatted his 500th career home run, a solo shot off Matt Morris in the sixth inning, and added a sacrifice fly in Cincinnati’s 6-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

June 24, 2007 / Back At Safeco: Made his first return to Seattle in eight years over a memorable weekend at Safeco Field during which he received numerous standing ovations, hit two homers off Miguel Batista in the final game of the series, and told a rapt Seattle audience that he wouldn’t mind finishing his career as a Mariner.

June 9, 2008 / 600th homer: In a 9-4 Cincinnati victory over the Florida Marlins, joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays in the 600-home run club with a two-run shot off Mark Hendrickson.

Griffey celebrates after hitting a home run against the Texas Rangers in 2009, his last full season in the majors. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Feb. 18, 2009 / Second stint: Agreed to a one-year contract with the Mariners worth $2 million.

April 6, 2009 / Back at it: Hit the first home run of his second stint with the Mariners, a solo shot off Francisco Liriano, in Seattle’s 6-1 season-opening victory over the Twins.

April 14, 2009 / Return home: Playing his first home game as a Mariner since Sept. 26, 1999, went 1-for-3 with a walk and rocked the Safeco crowd of 45,958 when he was introduced. “When they called ‘Ken Griffey Jr.!’ I was still on the mound (in the bullpen), but I stopped to watch,” starter Carlos Silva said of the pregame scene. “It was amazing. I never saw anything like that, that crowd, that intensity.”

April 15, 2009 / 400th homer: Drilled his 400th home run as a Mariner during an 11-3 win over the Angels at Safeco Field, becoming the first player in history to hit 400 home runs with one team and 200 with another (210 for Cincinnati between 2000-08).

Griffey entered the Mariners Hall of Fame Aug. 20, 2013. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Oct. 4, 2009 / Safeco tribute: In what some thought might be his final game at Safeco Field, received standing ovations before each of his four at-bats, and another ovation after his final at-bat, an eighth-inning single. Following the game, Griffey was carted around the field on the shoulders of four teammates as Safeco fans lavished him with cheers.

June 2, 2010 / Last bow: After going 0-for-1 (groundout) in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to Minnesota, lowering his batting average to .184, Griffey abruptly left the Mariners without a formal retirement announcement and returned to his home in Florida.

Aug. 10, 2013 / Safeco salute: Griffey received a thunderous ovation from a sellout crowd at Safeco Field as he entered the Mariners Hall of Fame, joining Alvin Davis (1997), Dave Niehaus (2000), Jay Buhner (2004), Edgar Martinez (2007), Randy Johnson (2012) and Dan Wilson (2012). “I am truly honored and humbled to be associated with these people here,” Griffey said. “And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don’t have a speech. I just speak from the heart. I think that’s the most important thing. I may have sometimes been standoffish, I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to play baseball. That’s the only thing that mattered, playing and winning ballgames for this team. I want to thank all of you, and the Mariners organization, for letting me be part of something special.”


  • Kirkland

    A few Thanksgivings ago, the MLB Network was showing the ALDS Game 5 in their “20 Greatest Games” series. Griffey comes to the plate in the 8th., and my teenaged nephew, who only knew him in his last year with the M’s, scoffed. His father told him, “No, back then, he was one of the superstars.” Griffey then launches a David Cone pitch with that sweet swing into the Kingdome’s third deck. Nephew’s reaction? “Whoa…”

    • art thiel

      Whoa. Said countless times hereabouts.

  • jafabian

    When Junior was playing in Bellingham people I knew who saw him play said he was so good he was going to be the Michael Jordan of baseball and that’s exactly what he became. My favorite stat of his is how he played against the Yankees. .311/.392/.595, 36 HR in 133 games vs the evil empire. Only time the M’s beat them in the playoffs was when Junior was here.

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    • art thiel

      Good point abut the Yankees. He and Edgar slayed the Yanks in 95.

  • Jamo57

    I was at Opening Night when Griffey hit his first home run. My sales manager took the sales department to the game and was in the beer line buying everyone a round of beers in the first inning when Griffey went yard. When he came back to the seats I said to him, “When Griffey goes into the HOF you can say you were in the beer line when he hit his first home run.”

    Thanks, Wayne. I’m not sure the King Beers were worth missing the moment. LOL

    • art thiel

      Prescient, Jamo. I’m sure Wayne is looking to throttle you.

  • Paul Harmening

    Thank you for this compilation. Everyone except those in Cincinnati triggered a visual and audio memory implant as well as a lump in my throat. No matter what age we are now or were then, Jr. is the 1st love of our NW sports fandom youth. No one ever forgets or has diminishing memories of their 1st love. I’m hoping to see a huge M’s turnout at the ceremonies.

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  • Long-Time Mariners Fan

    September 14, 1990 – the back-to-back, father-son home runs. All the more remarkable for these two facts: Ken Griffey Sr. hit his homer on a 0-2 count, and then Junior followed with his homer on a 3-0 count.

    Why remarkable? Senior was always a good, smart hitter. And what does a good, smart hitter do when he’s behind 0-2? Shorten up his swing, defend the plate, go with the pitch, try to make contact. No way does he swing for the fences.

    Why remarkable? Junior was only in his second year in the Bigs. 3-0 count – you’ve been told since Little League to take the next pitch. No way do you swing, let alone swing for the fences.

    The first game I ever saw in the Kingdome was Junior’s debut in 1989 – as Dave Niehaus said that very night, “Welcome to Seattle, Ken Griffey Jr.!!” Congrats, Kid… it’s been our pleasure all these years.