Monday, February 13, 2012

#110 Ken Griffey - New York Yankees

Card:  You’re looking at Griffey’s 10th Topps card.
Pic:  I don't know what it is, but Griffey never looked right to me in a Yankee uniform.
Player:  Ken Griffey was drafted out of high school by the Reds in the 29th round in 1969.  He made his MLB debut on August 25th, 1973 and proceeded to tear up National League pitching, batting .384/.424/.570 in 86 at bats.  The rookie sensation had just one playoff hit as the Reds lost to the Mets in the NLCS. 
Griffey was the Reds starting rightfielder when the ’74 season started but he struggled at the plate and was sent down in May.  He returned in July, continued to scuffle, and at one point was batting .135.  He had a torrid finish to boost his average to .251 to go with two homers and nine steals.  Griffey was the everyday rightfielder in ’75, sitting out occasionally against some lefties.  With the Big Red machine, Griffey came into his own hitting .305/.391/.402 and added 16 steals.  Griffey had a strong postseason with 11 hits, 8 RBI, and 5 steals as the Reds won it all.  On a team full of stars, it was easy to overlook Griffey but he got his share of ink in ’76 as he batted .336 and stole 34 bases.  The Reds repeated as World Champs with Griffey hitting well in the NLCS (.385) but slumping (.059) in the World Series.
The Big Red Machine didn’t win any more titles, but Griffey kept on producing for Cincinnati.  Over the ’77-’81 seasons he batted between .288 and .318 and added a little power to his game averaging nine homers a season.  After the ’81 season, the Reds dealt Griffey to the Yankees for Freddie Toliver and a minor leaguer.
The Yankees platooned Griffey and played him all over the outfield as well as first base.  He hit in the .270s three times and hit .306 in ’83 and was good for about ten homers per year.  Halfway through the ’86 season he was traded in a four player deal to the Braves.  He enjoyed his best power year, blasting 21 homers to go with a .306 average.  Platooning in leftfield for the Braves, Griffey hit .286 with 14 homers in ’87.  He slumped to .249 in ’88 and was released in July. 
The Reds picked him up a few days later and he hit .280 down the stretch for his old team.  Playing a reserve role in ’89 he hit .263 in 236 at bats.   He was used as pinch-hitter for the Reds in 1990 and was hitting .206 when he was talked into retirement by the Reds who were in a roster crunch.  By retiring, Griffey stayed Reds property and there were rumors of them bringing him back if needed.  Meanwhile his son Ken Griffey Jr. was emerging as a star centerfielder for the Mariners. 
The Reds eventually agreed to release Griffey, which allowed him to join Ken Jr. in Seattle where he finished out the ’90 season.  The Griffeys became the first father-son tandem to play for the same team at the same time and they hit back to back homers on September 14th.  The elder Griffey hit .377 in 21 games to close out the season.  He was batting .285 two months into the ’91 season when he retired after he needed surgery to repair discs in his neck.  He had originally been injured in a car wreck during spring training.  In 19 seasons of play he won two championship rings, with 2,143 hits, 152 HR, 200 SB, and a .296 average.
Flipside:  Griffey was born in Donora, PA which despite being a small town, was the birthplace of Griffey, Griffey Jr, and Stan Musial.
Oddball:  Mariner teammate Henry Cotto was cleaning his ear with a Q-tip when Griffey bumped into him the bench, resulting in Cotto rupturing his eardrum.
History:  Griffey was a key part of the Reds back to back championships and had an excellent career.  He could be counted on to hit around .300 and steal about 20 bases with 8-12 homers.  He was selected to three All-Star games and was the AS game MVP in 1980.   When he was with the great Reds teams of the 70s he was often in the background.  By the time he retired all anyone talked about was his son, but the older Griffey was no slouch. 
Griffey coached with the Mariners, Rockies, and Reds for several years.  In 2006 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Having lost four uncles to the disease, he was wise to get checked often and had it successfully treated. Griffey currently manages in the Reds farm system.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite members of 'The Big Red Machine'. I often wonder how much better he coudl have been had he not been strapped down by the ego of the greater stars of that squad...