The backward hat was a 12th-hour addition to Ken Griffey Jr.’s hall of fame speech.
He didn’t decide to turn his cap backward – a signature moment from the most popular player of his generation – until he got to the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown … Sunday.
And it wasn’t his idea, he said following his induction speech into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It came from 2014 inductee Frank Thomas, the former Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics slugger.
“He said, ‘You got to do it, you got to do it,’” Griffey said. “Him being a veteran in the hall of fame, I took his veteran leadership and decided to do it.”
But he didn’t bring a hat.
So Griffey said he called his wife, Melissa (who is from Gig Harbor), to see if she could hunt one down. He said he thought the hat he grabbed from inside his podium once he concluded his speech belonged to his youngest son, Tevin. It had the Hall of Fame logo on the back (well, for Griffey, the front) and his name on the front (in this case, the back).
It was the style he made his signature as a player, and one that once garnered a complaint from then-New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter about Griffey disrespecting the game.
Ken Griffey Sr. on Thursday said the backward hat started when his son was either 5 or 7. Griffey Sr. had an afro when he played for the Cincinnati Reds and a much bigger head than his son. But Griffey Jr. would want to wear his father’s hat when they would play catch.
So, as the story goes, Griffey Jr. would turn it around to keep the bill of the cap from falling down his face.
But he didn’t consider employing the backward hat until Thomas suggested it.
“That really wasn’t my idea,” Griffey Jr. said. “… I had to call the family and find out if somebody had a hat and they brought it back to me.”