The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame class was announced Wednesday and voters chose only two players to make the trip to Cooperstown in catcher Mike Piazza and one-time Reds center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey was a nearly unanimous choice for the Hall as he received 99.3 percent of the votes which is only better than another former Red, Tom Seaver, who got 98.84 percent of the vote in his first year back in 1992. Piazza got 82 percent in comparison. While Griffey had some historic moments during his time with the Reds, a majority of his milestones were done as a member of the Seattle Mariners, whose hat he’ll have on his bust at Cooperstown. He will be the first player to don a Mariners cap in the Hall of Fame. Piazza will go in as a member of the New York Mets despite winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Dodgers in 1993.
For Griffey, his life began in Pennsylvania, but his childhood was spent in the Queen City as his father was a member of the back-to-back Championship Big Red Machine teams in 1975 and 1976. He would attend Moeller H.S. in Cincinnati, which also produced another Hall of Famer in Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. Griffey was the first overall pick in the 1987 draft and would eventually break in with the Mariners in 1989. He played in 127 games that season and hit the first 16 of his 630 home runs. He made a strong first impression as he doubled off Dave Stewart of the A’s in his very first plate appearance.
1990 is when he really burst on to the scene earning the first of ten straight Gold Gloves and earned the first of 13 All-Star appearances. That year he had a very familiar teammate in Ken Griffey Sr. and the two became the first father/son duo to hit back-to-back home runs in a game. The first of his seven Silver Sluggers came in 1991 and in 1994 led the strike shortened season with 40 homers and also notched the first of his three Home Run Derby titles.
In 1996 he narrowly missed the 50 homer club with 49, but followed in 1997 with a monstrous 56 homers on his way to the 1997 AL MVP. He hit 56 homers again in 1998, but was overshadowed by the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they both crushed the record of 61 set by Roger Maris in 1961. In 2000 Griffey would begin the new century in a different, but familiar town, as he was traded to Cincinnati in exchange for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, and prospect Antonio Perez. That season it looked like Griffey would continue to scorch pitchers, even in the senior circuit as he launched 40 homers and hit .271 in his first year with the Reds. He had to change his number from 24 to 30 as 24 was retired in honor of Hall of Famer Tony Perez. He wore 30 to honor his father, who donned the same number with the Reds.
Then came the flurry of injuries that allowed him to play in just 331 of the 648 games from 2001-04. 2004 did hold a big moment for “the Kid” as he homered on Father’s Day with Griffey Sr. in the crowd. The long ball was number 500 of his career and it also brought his hit total to 2,143, which also tied him on the all-time hit list with his dad. In 2006 he moved into a tie for tenth place on the home run list when he homered off the Cubs’ Scott Eyre on Sept. 27. He continued to climb up the list in 2007 finishing the season alone for sixth all-time ahead of former Red Frank Robinson and also notched his 2,500th hit off Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
On June 9, 2008, Griffey reached another milestone when hit home run number 600 off the Marlins Mark Hendrickson. His last homer with the Reds came on July 30, number 608, but then he was traded to the White Sox in exchange for reliever Nick Masset. Griffey’s first homer with the White Sox came off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who allowed Griffey to move into a tie for 5th with Sosa. In 2009 he rejoined the Mariners and homered on Opening Day, the eighth time he had done so in his career, a feat only accomplished by Frank Thomas and former Red Adam Dunn. He hit 19 homers that year for the Mariners and reached the 630 mark, but in 2010 he retired after just 33 games. He would finish 30 homers short of Willie Mays and ended his career fourth on the home run list. He was passed by Alex Rodriguez, his former teammate in Seattle. Griffey now sits sixth on the list in between Mays and Jim Thome who finished with 612 in 2012.
Griffey is already a member of two franchise Hall of Fame’s first with the Mariners (2013) and then with the Reds (2014). He and Piazza will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24.