Now and forever, as always, No. 24 in Mariners lore belongs to Ken Griffey Jr.
The Mariners marked Griffey’s triumphant return Friday to Safeco Field as a Hall of Fame electee by announcing formalized plans to retire his No. 24.
“It means a lot,” he said. “For them to say, ‘Hey, we don’t want anybody to wear this number,’ it’s overwhelming…and scary.
“It’s one of those things that makes you feel good about what you did as a player, that they respect what you did.”
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Club president Kevin Mather said Griffey’s No. 24 will be retired throughout the organization in a ceremony prior to an Aug. 6 game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
“Ken is the first Mariners player to have his number retired,” Mather said. “No player in our entire organization — not only the Seattle Mariners, but throughout the entire minor-league system — will ever wear No. 24 again.”
Plans call for Griffey to return April 8 to Safeco to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Mariners’ home opener against Oakland. The club will then stage a “Ken Griffey Jr. Weekend” from Aug. 5-7.
The Aug. 5 game will include the giveaway of 20,000 Griffey bobblehead dolls. In addition to the number-retirement ceremony on Aug. 6, 20,000 fans will receive a replica of Griffey’s Hall of Fame plaque.
The Aug. 7 game will include the giveaway of 20,000 replica Griffey jerseys.
The Mariners announced their plans just two days after Griffey, 46, became the first player to be elected to the Hall of Fame primarily because of his achievements as a Mariner.
The only number previously retired by the Mariners is No. 42, which was mandated in 1997 by Major League Baseball as a tribute to Jackie Robinson for breaking the game’s color barrier.
Coincidentally, it was Griffey who spurred MLB’s decision to retire Robinson’s number by expressing a desire in 1997 to wear it as a tribute to mark the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut.
“You’re going to look at numbers and things like that,” Griffey said. “But the way (Robinson) went about his life, and the things that he did off the field, nobody can compare to that.”
Having his number retired is the latest honor for Griffey, who set a record by receiving 99.3 percent of the votes cast by qualified members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“I knew he was going to get in for sure with the career had,” longtime teammate Edgar Martinez said. “One of the things about Junior is he had all of the five tools. But the instincts were there, too.”
Catcher Mike Piazza was also elected Wednesday and will join Griffey in the July 24 induction ceremony near the National Baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
On Thursday, Griffey confirmed his intention to enter the Hall wearing a Mariners’ cap at a news conference in New York. His plaque will be the first among the 312 all-time inductees to depict a player in a Mariners cap.
Still ... Griffey injected some intrigue into the process Friday when asked, again, whether he wanted the cap on his plaque to face forward or backward in the style he made famous.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he teased. “I’m going to have to leave that to a fan vote.”
Griffey began Friday at the New York Stock Exchange by joining with Piazza in ringing the opening bell to start the day’s trading. Griffey then made a cross-country trip to Seattle, where a police escort awaited at the airport.
The club’s decision to retire No. 24 is a formality.
Griffey is the only Mariner to wear that number since it was issued to him as a rookie in 1989. Second baseman Harold Reynolds wore No. 24 from 1984-86. Four players wore No. 24 prior to Reynolds.
“The last couple of days have been a whirlwind for me,” Griffey said. “It’s unbelievable. Humbling. Awesome. I’ve had a lot of fun ... It’s been wild.”
SEATTLE HALL OF FAMERS
Players, coaches and managers associated with the Mariners with position, name and year inducted into Hall of Fame with years in Seattle in parentheses:
OF Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-99, 2009-2010): 2016
P Randy Johnson (1989-98): 2015
OF Rickey Henderson (2000): 2009
P Goose Gossage (1994): 2008
P Gaylord Perry (1982-83): 1991
General manager Pat Gillick (2000-03): 2011
Manager Dick Williams (1986-88): 2008
Coach Paul Molitor (2004): 2004
Coach Bill Mazeroski (1979-80): 2001
Dave Niehaus (1977-2010) was the 2008 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.