Seattle Mariners

Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. slips into storyteller role

WATCH: Ken Griffey Jr. reflects on Hall of Fame speech, baseball legacy

Seattle Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr. discusses his legacy following his speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
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Seattle Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr. discusses his legacy following his speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

No crying, sniffling or backward hat this time.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza appeared more comfortable and relaxed speaking in front of fans Monday at Doubleday Field than they did in front of 50,000 Sunday during their Baseball Hall of Fame induction speeches.

Griffey spun humorous anecdotes as he sat in a chair on a stage alongside Piazza in the Little League ballpark, appearing to be the same old Griffey, even if now he wore a Hall of Fame ring.

“I’ll tell you a story real quick,” he said.

“I was pitching and I walked a couple of batters, and I had a lady from the other team just wearing me out. I’m 12 years old. I’m looking at her and I throw another ball and my mom stands up, looks at me and says, ‘Hit the next batter!’

“So I hit the next batter and my mom stood up again, turned to the lady and said, ‘If you don’t shut up, I’m going to have him hit the next one.’ 

So talk about learning discipline.

“And borderline child abuse,” Griffey joked. “It’s a thin line.”

His Hall of Fame plaque was screwed into its place in the museum’s plaque gallery late Sunday night after Griffey’s speech, the one that had him holding back tears less than 20 seconds in.

So Monday gave him a chance let out some laughs and tell some stories.

Like when Ken Griffey Sr. asked him to drive Willie Mays 40 minutes into downtown Cincinnati late one night … when Griffey Jr. was 14 years old.

“Statute of limitations?” Piazza quipped.

“Nah, we’re good, we’re good,” Griffey said.

The crowd cheered for almost 20 seconds when moderator Peter Gammons of the MLB Network mentioned Edgar Martinez. Griffey had said of his former Seattle Mariners teammate in his speech, “And, yes, he belongs in the Hall.”

“I need a little company,” Griffey said as he turned toward Piazza, the second player, alongside Tom Seaver, to go into the Hall with the New York Mets. “You got you and Seaver. Seaver’s got some company now. Now I need a little company.”

Gammons directed one fan’s question to Griffey regarding his relationship with Ichiro Suzuki.

Griffey said he met Ichiro in 1995 and took him to a Chicago Bulls basketball game because Ichiro wanted to meet Michael Jordan. Griffey and Ichiro played together in 2009 and 2010 in Seattle, but were in the same spring training in 1999.

Then Griffey performed a stuffy impersonation of Lou Piniella.

“He didn’t perform real well in spring training. He just didn’t get the at-bats he was accustomed to having,” Griffey said. “I knew how good he was, but Lou was like, ‘No, he’s not playing for me. He’s not ready. I can’t believe he came out to do this.’ 

The crowd laughed.

“When I got there in ’09 and he just looked at me and gave me a hug,” Griffey said. “He says, ‘Finally, I get to play with you.’

“I had a front-row seat for two years to watch him absolutely do things I wish I could do. He is a magician with the bat. The one thing about him is he has a lot more power than he shows.”

Piazza interjected.

“Yeah, it’s like he’s playing tennis or something.”

Said Griffey: “And I’m going, ‘He has the body of a 12-year-old gymnast.’ 

Griffey spoke the longest about the ’95 American League Division Series, of his slide into home in the bottom of the 11th inning at the Kingdome to beat the New York Yankees.

Here’s how it went:

Gammons: “I still about four times a year watch your mad dash from first base on Edgar Martinez’s hit. Is that one of your most enduring memories, was to win that series against the Yankees and move on in the playoffs?”

Griffey: Oh yeah.

“It’s funny. My wife still teases me today, ‘I didn’t know you could run that fast. … You can really run a little bit.’ I’m like, ‘I chased you down, didn’t I?’

“Being my first playoffs in ’95, we go down 0-2. Now the pressure is off of us. They’re the big, bad Yankees and all they got to do is win one and we’re the little Seattle Mariners. To tie it up, I remember Jay Buhner saying, ‘Now the pressure is on them.’

“Then they get a lead early, and I’m like, ‘Here we go. And then we gradually catch up and Joey (Cora) gets a hit and I get a hit and then we’re like ‘Edgar’s up.’ And the one thing about Edgar, you can’t pitch him in.”

Piazza: “That’s a true story … because I was catching the All-Star game in ’97 when Greg Maddux was pitching and he’s throwing cutter, changeup, changeup, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to sneak one in on Edgar.’ Boom, home run. Greg is like, ‘What did you call that for?’ … Sorry, man.’ 

Griffey: “But as soon as he hit it, I was like, ‘I got a chance to score.’ Especially if it hits that pad and drops straight down. Or if it bounces and hits the pad, it’s going to stay underneath the pad. I was like, ‘It’s out there.’ I took one step past second and looked at the third base coach and never looked at him again. You’re going to have to throw me out. …

“I slid into home, and the only thing I remember was after they jumped on me and I’m like, ‘I still have a plate and nine screws in my wrist. I need to get people off of me.’ They showed the smile and I’m like ‘OK, all right, get off me, get off me.’ 

Piazza: “Those piles aren’t fun. You can’t breathe under there.”

Griffey: “You’re looking at about 2,000 pounds of guys.

“Sliding and having the guys jump on you and going into the locker room and being able to open up the champagne and pour it all over, that’s one of the greatest feelings you can have as a player. Now, I never played in the World Series and my dad still reminds me of that. He throws the little verbal jabs — he’s got three rings …”

Piazza: “But you got this one.” And he clenched his fist, showing off his Hall of Fame ring, a trinket Griffey can match.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677, @tjcotterill

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