Ken Griffey Junior came back to to Seattle this weekend. The Kid. The Natural.
And he really was. The swing, that smile, that reckless abandon in center field. The Griffey Era really was a special time in Seattle Mariners history. It’s kind of funny that on the night he retuns I decide to watch my highlight tape of the 1995 season. It showed all of the qualities that made him remarkable. The Swing. He has, without a doubt, the most beautiful, natural swing I have ever seen. If I ever see a swing the surpases his I will devote myself to God and declare a second coming. It was beautiful then, and it’s the same now. He lost a bet to Lou Piniella in spring training. The payoff was supposed to be a steak dinner. Griffey, however, repaid Lou with a live cow in his office. He was out for 2 1/2 months of the 1995 season with a fractured wrist following a spectacular play in the outfield. He went for flyballs with an intesity that is rarely seen these days, caring only about catching this ball, crashing into the Kindome’s outfiield wall in the process.
Griffey, you could really get behind…so long as he kept his mouth shut. He whined about the fireworks after the National Anthem and homeruns in the Kindome (apparently they obstructed his view in the outfield.). He complained that Mariners fans gravitated towards the unsung players, like Joey Cora, who were much less talented than he, and cried that he wasn’t reiving the proper adulation from the fans. He had issues with the home run distances in the newly constructed Safeco Field (and one of the reasons, along with the Whore Rodriguez that the fences are in as far as they are..should have been a few more feet out in right field). He opened his mouth quite frequently; afterall, he was the star. But it left the fans with a love/hate feeling towards him.
The split feelings were evident when he left for Cincinnati, just as it looked the Mariners really had a shot at the Big Time (i.e. they got rid of Woody Woodward). Some were mad, some indignant, some relieved, some apathetic. And of course as soon as he left the cries to bring him back began, only to intensify this weekend.
The Griffey Era was special. Personally, not being a hug fan of egos, he wasn’t one of my favorites. But he contributed so much. One of my favorite Mariner momentos is the Sports Illustrated cover declaring him The Natural. Those of a literary persuation know that Bernard Malamud’s Natural fell. “Say it ain’t so, Roy” could well have been the cries of M’s fans, “Say it ain’t so, Junior!” when he left. It was special, but now it’s over.
Griffey was certainly the one player, when he was here, that you would never think of taking a bathroom break during his at bats. Do the Mariners have a player like that now? Maybe Richie Sexson, if we’re reaching. Ichiro is certainly the Mariners MVP, but he doesn’t evoke the same star quality that Junior did. Probably due to a lack of ego. I think that’s a GOOD thing. There’s no I in team, but there certainly is in egotism. Maybe I’m a throwback, but I prefer a good team to a good player.
If Griffey left for more fame, money, or power then certainly his story is an American Tragedy. But if he left, as he claimed, because of his family, then I’d have to put it in the category of American Dream. It seems as though if he had stayed with Seattle, he was headed for several Home Run Titles and the Hall of Fame. Maybe he did give it up for something more important. Whatever the reason, I hope we enjoyed him here while he lasted. He’s meant to be gone for good.