Junior calls it a career
The best baseball player to put on a Mariners uniform -- before or since -- is returning to Seattle following a nine-year absence, on Wednesday choosing the Mariners over the Braves with a one-year contract.
Regardless how long the Comeback Kid plays for the Mariners this time, he is sure to add to some of the numerous highlights during his first 11 years with the organization.
For all the home runs he hit for the Mariners, the run Griffey scored in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series against the Yankees remains one of the most important runs in franchise history.
Junior already had hit five home runs in the series when he came to bat in the 11th with Joey Cora on first base representing the tying run via a leadoff bunt single. Griffey sent Cora to third with a single up the middle. When Edgar Martinez followed with "The Double," Junior ran as fast as he could around the bases, sliding home with the series-clinching run.
The picture of him sprawled on the ground at home plate, at the bottom of the pile of players and that ear-to-ear grin wider than ever, said it all. It hasn't been quite the same since.
More than a week had passed since Griffey was activated from the disabled list on Aug. 1, 1995, and his shattered wrist still was an issue. He had not hit a home run -- until there were two outs in the ninth inning against Yankees closer John Wetteland on Aug. 24, when Junior hit a two-run homer for the first walk-off hit of his career.
That home run sparked the Mariners' remarkable comeback from a 13 1/2-game deficit to the Angels in the AL West and an eventual division championship.
For the first time, a Mariners player won an American League Most Valuable Player Award. Griffey led the Mariners to their second AL West title in 1997, batting .304 with a career-best 56 home runs and 147 RBIs.
His best season started with a bang. Actually, a double bang, as he hit two homers off Yankees right-hander David Cone on Opening Night. He finished May with 24 home runs and hit No. 25 on June 2, missing by one day tying Babe Ruth for fastest to 25 dingers.
After missing almost half of the '95 season with the shattered left wrist, Griffey was at the top of his game during a five-game Division Series against the Yankees.
Junior slugged two home runs in Seattle's Game 1 loss at Yankee Stadium. He gave the Mariners a one-run lead in the 12th inning of Game 2 with his third homer of the series, only to have the Yanks tie the game in the bottom of the inning and eventually win it in the bottom of the 15th.
After Seattle erased a five-run deficit in Game 4, Griffey put them ahead, 6-5, in the sixth inning with his fifth home run of the unforgettable series
On Sept. 14, 1990, Ken Griffey Sr. came to bat in the first inning with a runner on base and no outs. He sent a Kirk McCaskill pitch over the fence in left-center field for his third home run of the season. There to greet him at home plate was the on-deck batter, Ken Griffey Jr.
"That's how it's done, son," Senior said.
Junior stepped to the plate and hit a ball to almost the exact same spot in left-center at Anaheim Stadium for his 20th homer of the season, and the Griffeys became the first father-son tandem in Major League history to hit back-to-back home runs.
To this day, they are the only father and son to hit a home run in the same game, let alone go back-to-back.
The Wall Banger
On May 26, 1995, the Mariners were clinging to a 4-3 lead over the Orioles in the seventh inning when Kevin Bass drove a pitch from the Randy Johnson to right-center field.
Griffey, who had hit his seventh long ball of the season earlier in the game, sped toward the Kingdome wall in right-center, leaped, slammed into the barrier, caught the ball -- and shattered his right wrist.
Surgeons attached a four-inch metal plate with seven screws the next day, and Junior wondered if, not when, he would play again. After sitting out 73 games, he returned on Aug. 15 and finished the regular season batting .258 with 17 home runs and 48 RBIs.
The Homer Streak
The Mariners were trailing the Twins, 4-0, on July 28, 1993, when Griffey came to bat in the seventh inning. More than 30,000 fans had been sitting on their hands all night, waiting to watch some MLB history.
Griffey had hit home runs in seven straight games, leaving him one shy of the Major League record shared by Dale Long (1956) and Don Mattingly (1987). Right-hander Willie Banks was facing Griffey for the third time in the game, after retiring him on a strikeout and a groundout. But this time Junior bashed a ball 404 feet off the third-deck facing in right field for his 30th home run of the season -- and a piece of the record.
On a cool night in the Bronx on April 26, 1990, Yankees outfielder Jesse Barfield hit a pitch from the Big Unit that traveled majestically to left-center field, destined to become Barfield's 200th career home run. But Griffey sped to the fence, leaped -- and made a sensational catch.
But it wasn't until he returned to earth, took the ball out of his glove and showed the world he had made a home-run-robbing catch that he actually deprived Barfield of his milestone moment. It was the third out of the inning, and Griffey gleefully sprinted off the field, wearing that famous grin of his.
How sweet it is
One month into Griffey's rookie season, the Pacific Trading Cards Company marketed the "Ken Griffey Jr. Milk Chocolate Bar."
It was a hit, as nearly one million of the bars were purchased.
There was just one problem: Griffey, allergic to chocolate, never ate one.
The bars are still circulating, only now as collectors items
Opening Day at the Kingdome, 1989
After earning a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster during Spring Training, the 19-year-old Griffey was 2-for-19 with no RBIs when the Mariners returned home from a six-game road trip to Oakland and Anaheim.
There were just 33,866 fans in the Kingdome for Opening Night in Seattle, and with two outs and the bases empty in the first inning, Griffey entered the batter's box for the first time at the 'Dome. White Sox starter Eric King threw a first-pitch fastball on the outside part of the strike zone, and Junior lined it into the seats in left-center field for his first career home run, helping the Mariners win the game, 6-5.
Griffey would hit 16 homers in his rookie season -- 13 of them either tied the game or gave Seattle the lead -- until he literally hit the wall in July. Junior suffered a broken bone in the little finger of his left hand on July 24, ruining any hopes of becoming the American League Rookie of the Year.
At new Yankee Stadium On July 1, 2009, Griffey and former Mariners teammate Alex Rodriguez became the second duo in MLB history with at least 500 home runs to homer in the same game. The other duo: Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in 1971.
Griffey singled in his first home at-bat on April 14, 2009, against the Angels and also singled in his final at-bat of the season, a run-scoring hit against the Rangers at Safeco Field.
Griffey's second home run of the season, against the Angels on April 15, 2009, was his 400th as a Mariner, becoming the first player in MLB history to hit at least 400 home runs for one team and 200 for another one. He hit 210 home runs with the Reds.