DAR Sports- Legendary Athletes: Ken Griffey Jr.

Now, with DAR Sports, we usually stick to what we love. NBA and NFL are our primary focus. Every now and then, we may slip in a boxing or a baseball post if it fits and is worthy. In this case, we definitely have to talk the soon to be Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most storied baseball players in history and one of the greatest black baseball players of all time. Today, myself and Speed discuss the man's legacy and his gifts as an athlete. Let's get into it.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Now there's a player that you never heard linked to anything salacious, hit home runs like no one's business (and was clean in doing so), and inspired a generation of baseball fans--and players--to either cheer him or want to be like him. I was one of those kids. When I played youth baseball, I chose to wear number 24 (both as an homage to Griffey and to Eric Davis of the Orioles) and all but demanded I play in the outfield (only because I had range and would be able to contribute to the teams I was on more in the outfield than, say, a shortstop). The managers usually obliged, mainly because my defense was kind of top notch and I wasn't a complete mop at the plate either. But, enough about me and my (failed, obviously) dreams to be Baltimore's Ken Griffey, Jr.

The man has the stats, the personality, and the charitable reach to be a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer (hear that, BBWAA voters? /yo͞oˈnanəməs/). He's sixth all-time in home runs. He ended up in the 50 HR club twice. He's got over 2,700 hits. The guy was the Hulk Hogan of the MLB (minus, ya know, the steroids, the racism, and the alleged cocaine abuse). A larger than life figure that kids emulated and was seen as a role model, not like Barry Bonds, John Rocker, and those folks. Truth be told, I don't think I can do Griffey justice just by talking about him.

So go watch some of his greatest moments on YouTube or something. Better yet? Here ya go. Enjoy. And enjoy your HOF induction, Junior. You deserve it.

Now for me, my love for baseball began with Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro, Eddie Murray and guys like that. I admittedly became an Orioles fan, due to living here in Baltimore. I didn't watch baseball as faithfully as I did NBA, but I always felt a connection to the MLB during this time. It was fun to watch as a kid, as I assume my infatuation with sports led me to enjoy just about anything they would put on TV (a young True would watch baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, bowling, and tennis... whenever Sampras and Agassi played at least). However, with baseball, my favorite player was and will always be the amazing Ken Griffey Jr. I remember watching him for the first time. I believe he was playing against the Toronto Blue Jays and he ended up hitting a double to score two RBIs as the bases were loaded. For some reason, I instantly took to the player, known to many as "The Kid".

I would watch him regularly as often as the Mariners would play, and felt compelled to catch any game. It became so that my favorite player and team to watch were the Seattle Mariners and while the hometown team would get my support just because, my attention was always on the Mariners. Griffey had all the makings of a legend to me: from his outfield ability, his knack for hitting home runs, and even his batting stance, there was something different about the player that set him apart from the rest. His tenure with the Mariners would see some great moments, one being in 1995, when he led the Mariners to a ALDS victory over the Yankees, which would spark a bit of a rivalry. Griffey made it clear that he would never play for the Yankees due to how they treated his father, and he vowed to keep that promise, causing a slight bit of resentment on the part of the Yankees.

Griffey would have his finest hour in 1997, winning the MVP award for the AL. He would register 56 home runs, batting .304, with 147 RBIs. He would lead the Mariners to the AL West Division crown during that season, as well as be crowned the Home Run Derby champ that year. Injuries would take a toll on Griffey the following season, as he was on pace to do better in 1998, and he was a part of the big home run watch with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to make history and a new record. If injuries didn't come into play, my belief is that Griffey would have created a new record to surpass both McGwire and Sosa, who finished with 70 home runs and 66 home runs respectively. Griffey, despite injuries would finish with an almost identical stat line of his MVP season with 56 home runs and 146 RBIs.

After a long stretch of getting voted into the All Star Game with the Mariners, Griffey would end up with the Cincinnati Reds. Now, by the time this occurred, I had fell off with watching baseball. I missed the first few years of his Reds career, but I didn't miss much. Griffey would suffer from the curse of season ending injuries and would not be able to make his mark with the Reds. It seemed as if the true decline of the man who was a former 10 time Gold Glove Winner, 3 time Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP in 1992, and legendary run was starting. Griffey started to show signs of a return to form in 2005, hitting 35 home runs that season, his highest in quite some time. From there, it seemed like Griffey had put his best days behind him and was now just chasing his all time legacy. Griffey would end up going to the Chicago White Sox and not doing much better there, but he would solidify his legacy getting over 600 home runs, making him one of the top home run hitters of all time. After leaving the White Sox, he would go back "home" and rightfully finish his career with the Mariners. Though his last stint with the Mariners wasn't the greatest, he would finish his career with 630 home runs, making him no. 6 on the all time list.

Ken Griffey Jr. gave so much to baseball and made the kids of that 90's generation aspire to be baseball players and gave them a player to cheer for. Deals with Nike and Nintendo gave you the opportunity to wear his shoes and play as him in his own video games, which were nothing but great fun. Griffey is a part of the Mariners Hall of Fame and was just voted in ALMOST unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame, with 99.32 of the vote in his favor. While Griffey might not be the greatest of all time hands down, he is certainly in the conversation. Reflect back on his greatness and appreciate a once in a lifetime athlete.



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