SEATTLE — Ken Griffey Jr. created a lifetime of memories for baseball fans during his 22-year career, which was capped in 2016 by his first-ballot induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Here’s a look at 10 of his greatest moments.
1. Scoring on “The Double”
What made Griffey great was he could beat you with his bat. He could beat you with his glove. He could beat you with his arm. And, yeah, he could beat you with his legs, which led to his most iconic moment with the Mariners — the sight of Junior’s ear-to-ear grin at the bottom of a pile of teammates at home plate after he scored from first on what is known in Seattle as “The Double” by Edgar Martinez to beat the Yankees in the 11th inning of the deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 8, 1995, in the franchise’s first postseason run.
2. Jr. and Sr. go back to back
Ask Griffey what moment he most remembers in his 22-year career and this one tops the charts, for good reason. It was cool enough that Junior and his dad, Ken Griffey Sr., were able to play on the same team in Seattle in 1990. But the father-son duo delighted the baseball world on Sept. 14 that season by homering in back-to-back at-bats in the first inning off the Angels’ Kirk McCaskill.
3. No. 600
Griffey always insisted he wasn’t a home run hitter. But he kept hitting balls over walls during his career and No. 600 came with the Reds on June 9, 2008, as he belted a first-inning pitch from the Marlins’ Mark Hendrickson into the right-field seats at Dolphin Stadium to become just the sixth player in MLB history to achieve that milestone on his way to 630 for his career.
4. A catch for the ages
Junior’s web gems could fill a highlight reel all their own, but one of his first defining moments as a defensive wizard in center field came on April 26, 1990, when he went up over the wall at Yankee Stadium to rob Jesse Barfield and then celebrated his accomplishment with his trademark smile and a happy sprint back to the dugout that let the world know this was “The Kid” who loved playing the game. The pitcher he helped with that amazing catch? That would be fellow future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, who owes more than a few of his 303 career wins to Junior.
5. The home run streak
When you’re seventh on MLB’s all-time home run list, sometimes they come in bunches. And Griffey’s greatest streak came in 1993 when he homered in eight straight games, tying a Major League record set by Dale Long and Don Mattingly on July 28 when he went deep off Willie Banks of the Twins with an upper-deck shot at the Kingdome. Junior just missed breaking that mark when he doubled off the wall on July 29.
6. Camden crusher
One of Griffey’s long balls that didn’t even count — a shot in the Home Run Derby on July 12, 1993 — stands among his most memorable moments as he became the only player to hit the warehouse on the fly beyond right field at Camden Yards. Griffey wound up losing the Derby title that year in a playoff against Juan Gonzalez, but he competed in eight Derbies in his career and won three.
7. The debut(s)
It all had to start somewhere, and Griffey’s flair was immediate from the first time he set foot on the field as a 19-year-old rookie. The Mariners opened his first season on the road and Griffey doubled in his first at-bat off Oakland’s Dave Stewart. But he topped that on April 19, 1989, in his home debut at the Kingdome when he homered on his first swing — knocking an 0-1 pitch from Eric King of the White Sox over the left-field fence.
8. Seattle homecoming
They say you can never go home, but Griffey proved that wrong when he returned to Seattle with the Reds for the first time for an Interleague series in 2007 and was greeted with thunderous cheers and open arms. And as usual, Junior stepped up to the occasion, hitting two home runs in the series finale on June 24.
9. Costly catch
Griffey played the game all out, to the point where injuries eventually caught up with him in his later years and likely cost him a shot at challenging the all-time home run mark. But nothing could stop him from making plays, including the Kingdome wall on May 26, 1995, when he again helped Randy Johnson with an amazing catch on a deep drive by Kevin Bass. Griffey made the catch, but shattered his right wrist in the process. He wound up missing 73 games, but returned in time to lead the Mariners on their amazing playoff run as they overcame a 13 1/2-game deficit to catch the Angels and win the AL West.
10. No. 500
Junior always seemed to come through on special occasions, and naturally, his 500th career homer came with the Reds on Father’s Day in St. Louis on June 20, 2004. In a picture-perfect moment, Ken Griffey Sr. was in Busch Stadium that day and shared a post-homer hug with his son, another reminder that family always came first for Griffey.