After learning that his son had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame – and in record fashion – Ken Griffey Sr. called to congratulate him.
And this time, there was no kidding around.
“I used to tease him all the time,” Griffey Sr. said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney, laughing. “And the first thing I said to him was, ‘You had all the home runs, I had all the rings – but now you got the big one.’ So that’s most important. That trumps my rings. I know he’d give that up to get a World Series, but at the same time, he did an outstanding job to get into the Hall of Fame.”
Indeed, Ken Griffy Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, this after getting a record 99.3 percent of the vote. Junior was a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glover, a seven-time Silver Slugger, an MVP and hit 630 home runs in 22 seasons.
Asked what aspect of his son’s career he was most proud of, Griffey Sr. didn’t hesitate.
“The consistency of it,” he said. “What I’m proud of more is the last five or six years where he struggled with injury. He played a lot under duress in term of injuries – his hamstrings, his groin – and he was still able to get to 600 home runs. The last five years were really important for it.”
Brandon Tierney believes that if Griffey had stayed healthy for his entire career, he may have gone down as the greatest player of all time.
“That’s 20/20 hindsight,” Griffey Sr. said. “You can say that, but all the injuries, you look at all the things he went through – to me, he did the best he could and he was just being himself, playing the game as hard as he could. That’s what you look at. But yeah, 20/20 hindsight, yeah, I can say he would probably have pretty close to 900 home runs.”
As it stands, Junior ranks sixth on the all-time list, and while he had several memorable shots throughout his career, one from Sept. 14, 1990, might be the most special, for on that day, father and son went back-to-back for the first and only time in MLB history.
“That was strange,” Griffey Sr. said. “Harold Reynolds was on first base, and then I hit a home run to left-center field. Coming around third, I was looking at (Junior) and his whole demeanor changed. His concentration level went so high. A week before, he did the same thing and he just popped the ball up.”
Not that day. Junior sent a 3-0 sinking fastball over the wall in left field.
“I don’t know how he hit that ball,” Griffey Sr. said.
Junior played basketball and football in high school before deciding to focus entirely on baseball.
“He was a pretty good little wide receiver,” Griffey Sr. said. “He could run. He ran back a couple punt returns. So that’s what happened there. But he didn’t say anything until his senior year, when he just said, ‘Dad, I’m not playing football. I’m just concentrating on baseball and that’s what I want to do. I want to be a baseball player.’”
Junior will be inducted into Cooperstown along with Mike Piazza on July 24.