Ken Griffey, Jr. will be returning to the Seattle Mariners for the 2009 Major League Baseball season. Griffey is a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, 7-time Silver Slugger recipient and was the 1997 Most Valuable Player. To this day he is my favorite player.
According to legend, as young children, my older and I both wanted Griffey to be our favorite player. You see, we were avid baseball card collectors and when trading cards it was a type of trump card to say “and he’s my favorite player,” in order to grease the wheels in your favor when negotiating a deal. In our trading card circle this was an unspoken rule upheld by all of us, similar to the infallibility of “calling it.” I think Seinfeld or Brian Regan has a joke about that, but I can’t find a clip to link to.
Anyway, we both wanted to be able to greedily hoard all the Ken Griffey, Jr. cards that were available, so we played Rock, Paper, Scissors or something to decide who would be awarded the trading card rights to Griffey and be able to call him their Favorite Player…
I won. One of the few victories I recorded over my older brother in my youth, but I genuinely liked Griffey more than him anyway. He was more concerned with the financial gain that would be associated with the deal. I didn’t know it at the time, but what attracted me to Ken Griffey, Jr. as a baseball player was his approach to the game.
For the better part of his career (the years in Seattle prior to the string of always-disapointing injuries) he covered centerfield as well as anyone who played before him. For a portion of that time, somewhere in the 1990-1999 Gold Glove seasons, he was probably the best ever in centerfield.
At the plate he was a monster: Power to all fields and devasting when pulling the ball (pitchers don’t leave it down and in), a perennial .300 hitter (career avg. .288), speed on the base paths and to use a nonsensical sports phrase, “big in the clutch.” The joy he received from playing the game was evident every time he took the field.
Griffey’s career numbers are legit too. I think it’s safe to say that all 2,679 hits, 611 of which are Home Runs, are juice-free. With Barry Bonds’, Alex Rodriguez’s and Sammy Sosa’s career numbers all a little suspect I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Griffey to rightfully be remembered as the best baseball player of the 1990s.
And it is based on my memories of Ken Griffey, Jr. in the ’90s, playing for Seattle, a time when my biggest concern was whether or not my mom would let me ride my bike to school, that I wait in excitement for Griffey to once again take the field as a Seattle Mariner and bring me to tears in nostalgic bliss. And I WILL ride my fucking bike to work on Opening Day.
Oh, so who did my older brother end up selecting as his favorite player? Barry (cough, cough) Bonds.