Seattle Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr. learned much from father — just not a Hall of Fame speech

WATCH: Ken Griffey Sr. talks favorite Junior moment, playing with son, 'ugly' batting stance

Ken Griffey Sr. says his son began wearing hat backward because of an incident playing catch with his father as a kid, and his favorite moment of Ken Griffey Jr.'s career had to do with a throw.
Up Next
Ken Griffey Sr. says his son began wearing hat backward because of an incident playing catch with his father as a kid, and his favorite moment of Ken Griffey Jr.'s career had to do with a throw.

Ken Griffey Sr. wants no part of helping with his son’s speech.

He hasn’t offered any tips, tricks or sage advice, he said, for when Ken Griffey Jr. accepts his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he won’t relent even if Junior asks.

Griffey Sr. said he’s only here to grin and smile.

“And, hopefully, I don’t break down,” Griffey Sr. said Friday from just outside the Hall of Fame museum. “But I might have to do that, too.”

So mark down Sunday’s speech as one of the seemingly few things Griffey Jr. didn’t pick up on from his father, the three-time All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds.

Griffey Sr. said he has no insight on what his son will say, but that it’s possible Griffey Jr. doesn’t know, either.

“Most of the time he’s talking off the cuff anyway. You don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth,” Griffey Sr. said.

“He didn’t ask me and I wasn’t going to give him any (advice). The only thing I tell him is that I got three World Series rings and he doesn’t have any. But I told him he has the big ring now, so he’s the boss.”

This is the first time Griffey Sr. said he’ll tour the Hall of Fame building, located in a town that has a population of about 2,000 — except for this particular annual weekend during which 45,000 people are expected to watch Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their places among the game’s all-time greats.

Not too far from Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame exhibit, there is an empty slot in the plaque gallery to the right of Pedro Martinez’s plaque. There’s a name tag in the space that reads “Ken Griffey Jr.”

Griffey Sr. wouldn’t know, because he’s yet to tour the Hall, or see Griffey Jr.’s exhibit. The exhibit includes a slightly splintered bat from the 1998 Seattle Mariners’ season when Griffey Jr. hit his 348th career home run, moving he and his father to a combined 500 home runs. That number now sits at 782.

But the bat is more than memorabilia. The fact that Griffey Jr. kept it for the Hall of Fame to display this weekend speaks to how special that bond with his father was to him.

Maybe Griffey’s Jr. won’t get his speech from Griffey Sr. But there was so much else he did — at least sort of — get from him, including that signature backward hat, his batting stance, love for family, ability to connect with youths, and even how to be a Hall of Famer (Griffey Sr. isn’t in the national Baseball Hall of Fame, but he is in the Cincinnati Reds’ one).

Start with the hat.

Griffey Jr. would want to play catch, and do so wearing his father’s hat. Only it was too big and would fall down to his face.

“Then one time he almost got hit in the face, so his best bet was to turn the hat around backward so he could see,” Griffey Sr. said. “He did that when he was 5 or 7, and he’s been doing that for a long time since.”

How about Griffey’s Jr.’s batting stance?

Ugly, Griffey Sr. said.

But it was his own. Griffey Jr. grew up trying to emulate his father’s swing, and Senior said that he told him to cut that out, that he had to be his own person and discover his own style.

“Now everyone is trying to emulate his style,” Griffey Sr. said.

But what made it so ugly?

“The wiggle,” Senior said. “He stood straight up and he tilted his head and all that. It was ugly. But it worked for him.”

Griffey Sr. said he reminisces “every day” on the 1990-91 seasons, when he got to play alongside his son.

“I didn’t find out how good he was until I ended up playing left field in Seattle, and I got to see how much ground he can cover, what kind of player he was, what kind of offensive player he was, and the home runs,” Griffey Sr. said.

“I played with the Yankees from (1982-86). I had Don Baylor, Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield — those guys hitting behind me. When I got to Seattle and had a 20-year-old kid hitting behind me, I got more fastballs than I’ve ever seen in my life and I ended up hitting .377 (in 21 games with the Mariners in 1990).

“That right there, by itself, will tell you what kind of ballplayer he is.”

But it won’t tell the story of the relationship Griffey Jr. had with his father. Not like that splintered bat can, or what Griffey Jr. can with his words during his induction speech.

“He’ll have something real off the cuff to say about family and everyone else,” Griffey Sr. said. “He’ll have a lot to say about me when he gets to joking about his dad. But I always get the last laugh because I can ground him still.

“You can’t prepare for this week. Especially me. I’m not going into the Hall of Fame. I’m here to be a dad.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677


Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune