It started when Ken Griffey Jr. was about five or seven years old. Not when he was the Seattle Mariners center fielder.
His dad had an afro. Griffey Jr. didn’t. And Griffey Jr. would always want to wear his father’s hat whenever they’d play catch.
"And it would fall down to his face," Ken Griffey Sr. said on Friday from just outside the National Hall of Fame and Museum.
"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. That’s just the way he did it. He did that when he was 5 or 7. He’s been doing that for a long time."
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So maybe it wasn’t to start a fashion trend, make a statement or to disrespect the game, as then-New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter had once said.
Griffey Jr. said as much on the "Mike and Mike Show" on ESPN earlier this year when he spoke about the inception of his signature backward cap. It was because his father had a size 7½ hat and he had a 6¼, he said.
"My dad had a ‘fro and I didn’t," he said. "So I wore his hat and it always hit me in the face, so I just turned it around and it just stuck. It wasn’t like I was trying to be a tough guy or change the way that baseball is played."
Griffey Sr. was asked Friday if his son should be depicted wearing his hat backward on his Hall of Fame plaque.
"If he wants it that way," he said. "I’m here to be supportive. I’m here to grin and smile and hopefully I don’t break down, but I might have to do that, too."
‘THE KID’ IS ABOUT THE KIDS
Griffey Jr. was appointed as a youth ambassador for MLB last month as part of baseball’s effort to grow the game throughout the United States and Canada.
It made sense considering his ability to connect with the younger generation in the 1990s, when he had those Nintendo 64 games named after him and candy bars and the Nike Swingman logo, rivaling Michael Jordan’s Jumpman logo.
Griffey Sr. said his son’s ability to connect with kids might have come from his mother’s and father’s example.
"I would take care of every one of the kids I managed and coached and tried to help them as much as I could because I come from a situation as a 29th-round draft choice by the Reds (in 1969)," Griffey Sr. said. "As I got older and I started playing and I stopped playing and I started coaching, I found out a lot of kids were in my same boat and I wanted to do my best to help them out. And (Griffey Jr.) has always been that way."
Even if Griffey Jr. was the No. 1 overall pick in 1987, compared to his father going in the 29th round.
Griffey Jr.’s charity work, including with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, is one of the more lesser-told facets to his Hall-of-Fame career. His relationship with his own three children – son’s Trey and Tevin and daughter Taryn – is even more understated, Griffey Sr. said.
And Griffey Sr. said he wishes he had been able to share as much with his kids and Griffey Jr. has.
"He’s more about the kids than anything," Griffey Sr. said. "I didn’t have the opportunity that he had in terms of staying close with (my kids). My job was to play ball and provide for the family, which I did. It was a totally different time because I wasn’t making the kind of money (Griffey Jr.) made.
"You think about it, if Trey had a football game and Griffey was somewhere else, he could get a plane and just fly there. I couldn’t even get a cab. It’s totally different. I praise him because he has always been so close to his kids and I try to be close to my three. So it was a little tougher for me, but I was there for him whenever he needed."
The Mariners honorarily selected Trey Griffey in the 24th round — Griffey’s number in Seattle — in last month’s amateur draft. Trey Griffey is a wide receiver at the University of Arizona and was a redshirt junior this past year.
FATHER-SON BACK TO BACK HRS
One last nugget from our interview with Griffey Sr.
He recalled their back-to-back home runs for the Seattle Mariners in 1990, when they became the first father-son duo to do that in MLB history. And he recalled how his traveled 402 feet to center field and Griffey Jr.’s went 388 feet to left.
"All the pressure was on him," Griffey Sr. said. "I hit mine, I know mine went farther. And at the same time he had all the pressure on him. 3-0 (count), I didn’t think he would get a shot."
But he did. And he got it.
"You got a 20-year-old kid with that much pop to (opposite) field, he can do almost anything at the plate," Griffey Sr. said.
That was Griffey Sr.’s third home run in 32 at-bats as a Mariner. It was Griffey Jr.’s 20th of that season.