6.03.2010

So Long, Junior


This morning as I was watching Sportscenter I learned that Ken Griffey Jr. had retired after 22 seasons in the Major Leagues. I wrote about Griffey back when he hit his 600th home run, but now that he has retired, I just wanted to make a couple of remarks about his career.

Although I still love baseball and expect that I always will, my obsession with baseball likely reached its peak in the early to mid 90s. At that point I played league baseball every year, watched every Braves game I had access to, spent every cent I could scrape together on packs of baseball cards, and each baseball season I devoted every ounce of free time I could to the imaginary baseball league I created in the back yard (I would play all the games myself and keep stats for all the players; it was pretty awesome in an OCD kind of way).

And during that time, Ken Griffey Jr. was the undisputed king of the baseball world. You could maybe even argue that we was the king of the entire sporting world—everyone respected Michael Jordan, but they liked Griffey. And how could you not? He did everything well and seemed to have such a good time doing it.

As time went on though, Griffey started to suffer through a string of injuries which somewhat limited his production, while at the same time a lot of other players suddenly got really muscular and started jacking home runs in quantities that made Griffey’s numbers look modest by comparison. At the time, Griffey was often overlooked because of this, but in the long run, I think it’s what will secure his legacy—he hit 630 home runs over his 22-year career, and he did it the right way. Only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays could make the same claim, and that’s impressive company.

Finally, Griffey retiring is kind of sad for me personally as it sort of marks the end of an era—the up and coming young superstar of my youth is now too old to play. If “The Kid”—who always wore his hat backwards in batting practice while blowing big bubbles with his gum—has to retire, I guess all of us are getting older, huh?

6 comments:

Justin and Heather Bland 6/4/10, 7:56 AM  

Pangs of nostalgia.



I am really interested in the backyard league that you had... and I would love to see those stats.

Luke 6/4/10, 11:02 PM  

Justin,

I'm sure I still have the stats—boxes of them—at my parents’ house. I’ll have to dig them out.

It was a bit interesting in that the league was set roughly 12 years in the future, so I myself was grown up and able to play. The other players were also made up of people I knew as a child (complete with retired players and Hall of Famers of older people I knew).

By the way, I got your text…wish I was with you at the Orioles/Red Sox game to talk baseball!

Shuperman 7/15/10, 2:08 PM  

Try growing up watching his father. Now THAT will make one feel old.

Luke 7/16/10, 7:34 AM  

Shupe,

Haha, I hadn’t thought about that but I’m sure you’re right. I do remember Jr. playing with Sr. at the very end of his career with the Mariners, but just barely.

Anonymous 8/9/10, 1:01 PM  

Luke,
I always thought that if Griffey hadn't ever got hurt he could've broke Aaron's hr record. Did you ever have any of the Griffey video games?? They were awesome... Griffey needs to put a patent on that swing. Enjoy the blog...
Kyle

Luke 8/10/10, 1:28 PM  

Kyle,

If you look at the stats, Griffey was basically averaging 50 home runs a year over a several year period until he went to the NL and started getting injured all the time.

Had he been able to stay healthy, it's not at all a stretch to imagine that he could’ve hit another 125+ home runs. I guess that’s part of what is so impressive about Aaron’s (and to me, the record still belongs to Aaron, not Bonds) record—he managed to hit lots of home runs and stay healthy for so long.

Never did get to play the video games though…I never had a Sega or SNES growing up.

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