Last night was a strange night in major league baseball. If you were like me, you turned to the MLB Network to watch Armando Galarraga throw a 28-out perfect game live.
While that is going to be the story taking over a lot of sports talk shows today, it cannot be ignored that Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to retire from Major League Baseball.
A few days ago, somebody posted a comment about how they root for Tim Lincecum. I quickly came to their defense because while we are Mets fans, we also should be baseball fans. I enjoy watching certain players play the game I love. They don’t have to wear a Mets uniform for me to want to see them have great success.
I was born in 1982, so what happened last night was arguably the end of an era for me as a baseball fan. Ken Griffey Jr. was my generation’s Mickey Mantle, or Willie Mays. Was he as good as them? You can debate that all you want, that’s not the point. The point is that for a while (1989-2000) you as a baseball fan always knew what Griffey Jr. was up to.
You paid attention to him, and sometimes watched in awe. He was the greatest Centerfield to ever play the game during my lifetime. He’d make the impossible, look probable. He was as true of a 5-tool player as you could and possibly ever will find in the sport again.
Who can forget him scoring on Edgar Martinez’s double versus the Yankees which was most likely the biggest moment in Seattle Mariners history? Griffey Jr. will also be remembered for going back-to-back HR with his father in Seattle. I mean, can you get any more perfect than that?
No matter where he played, you always had a sinking feeling in your gut when you’d hear that Junior suffered another injury. If only he had stayed healthy for just two or three more full seasons in his prime, he would’ve officially gone into the record books as the greatest HR hitter of all time.
Baseball has changed since Junior started to fade away. Now, Albert Pujols is the best player in the game, but he’ll never have the national recognition that Griffey had until/unless Pujols breaks the HR Record. Griffey didn’t have to do that. He played the game with a smile, he played the game better than anybody on the field, and he played the game with class.
In an era that will forever be remembered for performance enhancing drugs, and lying to congress, and inflated HR totals, Ken Griffey Jr. has always been one of the few names that everybody agrees played the game clean. He was the best of an era of cheaters, and the one of the best baseball players who ever lived.
I know I’ll miss seeing the most perfect baseball swing I’ve ever witnessed. I look forward to the day when he is enshrined where he belongs, in Cooperstown.
We all wouldn’t be Mets fans if we didn’t love baseball, and I wouldn’t love baseball as much had I never witnessed Ken Griffey Jr. play. Thank you Junior Griffey!