Ken Griffey Jr. Never Got the Attention He Deserved

by

June 3, 2010

Ken Griffey Jr. Never Got the Attention He Deserved One of the greatest baseball players of all time retired on Wednesday, but by the end of the night, it wasn?t even the biggest story of the day.

Ken Griffey Jr. and his 630 career home runs (fifth on MLB?s all-time list) finally decided to hang it up after 22 seasons in the big leagues.

But thanks to a horrific missed call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, Griffey?s retirement took a back seat.

And that?s nothing new for "The Kid."

Throughout his entire career, Griffey?s tremendous play on the diamond was overshadowed by juiced-up sluggers, flashier teammates and simply more intriguing events.

Griffey was named the Players Choice Awards Player of the Decade in the 1990s by his fellow players, after winning 10 Gold Gloves and the 1997 AL MVP Award.

But when fans, writers and commentators talk about who saved baseball in the late '90s, Griffey?s name isn?t usually first on the list.

That?s because in 1998, two sluggers — Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa — put on the greatest season-long home run hitting contest in baseball history. McGwire finished the year with 70 home runs, while Sosa had 66. Griffey had a paltry 56.

Both McGwire and Sosa have since been linked to steroid allegations, with McGwire actually admitting to his usage earlier this spring.

Griffey, however, remains untainted. His only fault was playing, and playing well, during an era where most of the great sluggers were on the juice.

And yet, "Junior" carried on with his business in the same way he did when he broke into the Show as a 19-year-old phenom in 1989. He just hit and caught the ball better than anyone else in the big leagues.

Even in his own city, during the prime of his Hall of Fame career, Griffey didn?t get as much love from the fans and media as one of his Mariners teammates. When Alex Rodriguez came to the M?s in 1994, he was the biggest sensation in Seattle since, well, Griffey. When A-Rod hit .358 in 1996, the Mariners would no longer just be Griffey?s team. Seattle would no longer just be Griffey?s city.

In 1999, Griffey participated in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities at Fenway Park. To nobody?s surprise, he won the derby. But of course, Griffey?s dominance wouldn?t be the big story that night. Rather, it was McGwire?s 13 blasts in the first round — a derby record at the time — that baseball fans around the country remembered.

Griffey made headlines again the very next night, as he was named to MLB?s All-Century Team before he was even 30 years old.

Less than an hour later, the spotlight was stolen from him by Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who at the age of 80 was brought onto the field in a golf cart to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the All-Star Game.

All the players and coaches gathered around Williams, bringing tears to the eyes of many.

Everyone forgot about Griffey.

And that?s the way it always was, is, and perhaps will be for The Kid.

Griffey never won a World Series ring, and five years from now, when he is sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the bigger news could be which steroid-linked player didn?t get enough votes.

But no matter what story comes along to steal Griffey?s thunder, there will always be one place where his legacy is safe — the record books.

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