Amidst very little hubbub and to-do, Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th career homerun for the Cincinnati Reds tonight on a 3-1 pitch in the 1st inning off of left-hander Mark Hendrickson. The stroke that hit it was a reminder of what made him so fun to watch when he was at 100 homers. The swing is the purest, most beautiful swing ever displayed. It generated a Nike symbol completely his own almost as iconic as MJ’s or the NBA image of Jerry West in its hey day.
In his prime Griffey was arguably the best player to ever step on a MLB field. I would argue in favor of that. I grew up with Griffey as the hometown star and loved the Mariners because of him. He had so much talent and played the game with such effortlessness but unbridled enthusiasm and passion that it struck you as a fan. I absolutely loved watching him play and will never forget his greatest catches, his swing, some of the best moments in Mariners history nor will I ever forget his trademark smile. The 1990’s player of the decade, owner of 11 gold gloves, and only All-Century Team member active at the time (excluding pitchers), Griffey in my honest opinion is the greatest player of all time and so what if I’m a little biased having grown up watching him in my own backyard.
Whether this moment is belated or not (and it most definitely is), I’ve recently come to terms with what has happened in his career to delay this moment and somewhat tarnish his legacy. The important thing is always going to be how we remember The Kid and I know I will always remember him as the best I ever saw. Someone who made me love to watch and play the game of baseball exactly as he did. Whether he would have Aaron’s record by now (and subsequently Bonds’) is another matter that I don’t want to get caught up in, pure and simple whether he ever gets there or not he deserves to be regarded as the greatest homerun hitter of all time and the best player of his era if not in baseball’s history.
Congratulations Junior, you deserve it and hopefully another milestone is yet to come. You will always be my favorite athlete to watch play the game of all time.
A great article summing up Griffey’s persona and impact on baseball in Seattle from Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times.
Another trip down memory lane of Griffey’s breathtaking career from ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian