One of the most prolific home run hitters in all of baseball history, George Kenneth Griffey Jr., known as “the Kid” played for 22 years in Major League Baseball (MLB). Ken was raised in the clubhouse of the Cincinnati Reds, where his father (Ken Griffey Sr.) was a part of the back-to-back championships in the ’75 and ’76 World Series. While in high school, Ken was an elite two-sport athlete but would set his sights on playing in the majors thus making history as the first father-son duo to play in the majors at the same time. During the 1987 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Ken was selected number one overall by the Seattle Mariners. As he made his professional Minor League debut that summer, Ken led the team with 14 home runs, 40 RBI, 13 steals, and hit .313. Understanding the historical significance of the moment and a simple desire to share the dugout with his son, in 1989 Griffey Sr. would arrange a trade with the Mariners that would have the duo playing together until his retirement. On April 3, 1989, “the Kid” would make his first professional Major League appearance where he would hit a line-drive double in the Oakland Coliseum, and a week later in his first at-bat, Ken would hit his first home run.
Ken would go on to set the ’90s on fire with his electrifying wide range of play. The father-son duo would put on a show, hitting back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning against the California Angels. His strength and athleticism would prove to elevate his game in the following season, awarding him his first Golden Glove with a batting average of .300 and a ticket to the All-Star game but he did not stop there. Ken took part in the 1993 MLB Home Run Derby, where he would hit the warehouse building beyond the right-field wall on the fly. He was the only player in history to do so. Ken’s most memorable moment with the Mariners came during the 1995 American League Division Series (ALDS) against the New York Yankees. The Mariners were on the verge of elimination in game 5, and teammate Edgar Martinez hit a double. This positioned Ken to make the game-winning run that would save Seattle baseball. During the 1997 season, Ken led the Mariners to the AL West Crown hitting .304 with 56 home runs and 147 RBIs, naming him the American League Most Valuable Player Award. On April 15, 1997, Ken would start a lasting tradition when he wore the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. While playing for the Mariners, Ken received several honors from his election to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, 10-time American League Gold Gloves, 1998 ESPY co-winner for Male Athlete of the Year, 1999 Players Choice Awards Player of the Decade (peer-voted), and was named to the All-Century team in 1999.
Fatherhood would create a desire for Ken to arrange a trade to Cincinnati, where it all began for him as a child. While playing for the Reds, Ken would hit his 500th home run on Father’s Day for the same team wearing his father’s number. What a monumental moment for his family! Though the 2000s would plague Ken with several injuries, he would continue breaking hitting and RBI records. The Seattle Mariners would remind him of the “House the Griffey Built” in his honor. In 2011, Ken would finish his career with a .284 batting average, 630 home runs, and 1,836 RIBs. Ken would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, having received 437 of the 440 (99.32%) votes cast, setting a historical record (later broken in 2019).
In retirement, Ken has leveraged his genuine and honorable reputation into a seat at the table. In 2021 Ken began making legacy moves, the MLB announced that Ken was named senior advisor to Commissioner Rob Manfred, focusing on the improvement of the diversity of baseball operations and youth development. He has also made waves behind the scenes with the Seattle Mariners by becoming an owning partner. Ken’s success on the field has afforded him the opportunity to reach back, serving youth including his work with the Boys and Girls Club of America and several children’s hospitals.