April 3, 2012 by Matt Musico
April 3, 1989: In his first major league at bat, Mariners’ center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. doubles off of Oakland’s Dave Stewart. The 19-year old ‘Junior’, the son of an active major leaguer outfielder playing with the Reds, will establish himself as one of the game’s superstars before retiring in 2010.
For those of us that were born in the 1980s and early 1990s, Ken Griffey Jr. was THE MAN. Everyone wanted to play like Junior, with the bat and with the glove. I have a number of memories from watching him as a kid, but the one that sticks out the most is when he would wear his hat backwards while dominating the Home Run Derby. Most of the damage he did on the field in his career came within the first 10 years of his 22-year career, but his overall body of work is impressive.
Griffey Jr. was elected to 13 All-Star games, won 10 Gold Glove awards, seven Silver Sluggers, and one MVP during his career. He was a .284 career hitter and eclipsed the .300 mark on seven occasions, enjoyed nine 30+ home run seasons (lead the league four times), and scored 100+ runs in a season six times (led league once). There aren’t enough words that can describe how special of a player Griffey was; he was the only active player to be named to the MLB All Century team in 1999 and his career statistics put him in great company with some of the best ballplayers ever; his spot in Cooperstown is waiting for him. Some of his career marks include:
- 78.6 career WAR (39th all-time)
- .538 slugging% (39th)
- 1,662 runs scored (32nd)
- 2,781 hits (48th)
- 630 home runs (5th)
- 5,271 total bases (12th)
- 524 doubles (39th)
- 1,836 RBI (15th)
- 1,192 extra base hits (6th)
When you consider that there are over 17,700 MLB players that have played in the game’s history, Griffey is easily considered one of the greatest players of all time. After all these gaudy statistics, Junior also shares a record with Don Mattingly and Dale Long by hitting a home run in eight consecutive games. He is one of 29 ballplayers to play in the MLB in four different decades throughout his career.
With the great amounts of early success that he experienced in his first 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, he was widely considered to be the man that would surpass Hank Aaron’s career home run mark. Unfortunately, he was plagued with numerous injuries during his time with the Cincinnati Reds. However, being injured as often as he was and still managing to slug 630 home runs is impressive. Regardless, today marks the anniversary of the beginning of a very long and prosperous career. For me, Griffey’s signature swing is one wonderful baseball memory from my childhood, as well as many other fans around my age.
The game of baseball celebrates its past like no other sport and I hope that Griffey is able to sit on his couch today, think about how it all started 23 years ago, and flash that well-known smile of his because he had the opportunity to live every boy’s wildest dreams.