Ken Griffey started his career with the Reds in 1973, and appeared in three All-Star Games as a member of the Big Red Machine before the team traded him to the Yankees following the 1981 season. In 1986, Griffey was traded to the Braves, but after a slow start in 1988 Atlanta released him. Just a few days later, as so many aging Reds legends seem to do, he returned to Cincinnati.
The next year, he became known as “Senior,” as his son Ken Griffey Jr. was tearing up American League pitching in Seattle. “Senior” joined “Junior” in Seattle in 1990, becoming the first father/son duo to play on the same team at the same time.
The Kid. Need I say more? Ken Griffey came within three votes of being the first unanimous selection for the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure if anyone will ever get every vote.
Of course, Griffey is best known for his time in Seattle. He was an absolute monster in his first eleven years, and everyone knew he was on his way to Cooperstown. The Mariners shocked the world when they traded him to Cincinnati. As a Reds fan, I was stoked, and I’m glad I got to see him play in person on several occasions.
After nearly nine years in Cincinnati, Reds fans turned on Griffey (as Reds fans always turn on their heroes, sadly). The Chicago White Sox decided to add the legend to their roster for the remainder of the 2008 season. It’s always strange to see him in a Chicago uniform.
Griffey returned to Seattle for one last hurrah, finally retiring in June, 2010.
April 10, 1950
Starting right fielder for the Big Red Machine. Three-time All-Star. Perennial .300 hitter (.296 for his career). Ken Griffey excelled at all he did. But for all his successes, he will probably be most remembered as the father of one of the greatest baseball players in history. They were the first father-son duo to play in the majors at the same time, and in 1990 were given the opportunity to occupy the same outfield for the Seattle Mariners. I was a fan of Senior before I even knew about Junior, but the story of father and son on the same field, hitting back-to-back home runs, playing catch between innings…that’s what baseball is all about.
I love this time of the year, when the latest immortals are enshrined into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Of the 18,493 players who have made it into a Major League Baseball game, only 217 have been considered worthy enough to be called Hall of Famers. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were in the spotlight this past weekend.
Griffey last played for my Reds in 2008, and if you trace the Reds’ rosters backwards, there was a Hall of Fame player all the way back to 1956 when Frank Robinson made his debut, an impressive 53 consecutive years of at least one Hall of Famer on the field. Interestingly, Tony Perez twice played the role of “bridge” player, first between Robinson and Johnny Bench in the 1960s, then between Bench and Barry Larkin in the 1980s.
This got me thinking about other teams and their Hall of Fame “most recent” streaks. Counting only players, the Tigers have the longest streak, starting with Sam Crawford all the way back in 1903 through their most recent player inductee Al Kaline, who was last active in 1974. That’s 72 straight years of at least one Hall of Fame player on the field, a feat that is absolutely amazing. Although I think Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell should have plaques in Cooperstown, they don’t (yet…keep your fingers crossed for the Veterans Committee).
Here’s the run down of the current thirty franchises (with Montreal in the place of Washington, who hasn’t fielded a Hall of Famer yet).
72 years: TIGERS 1903 (Crawford)-1974 (Kaline)
53: REDS 1956 (Robinson)-2008 (Griffey Jr.)
47: ORIOLES 1955 (Brooks Robinson)-2001 (Cal Ripken)
28: ASTROS 1980 (Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan)-2007 (Craig Biggio)
28: PIRATES 1955 (Roberto Clemente)-1982 (Willie Stargell)
24: BRAVES 1985 (Bruce Sutter)-2008 (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz)
21: ROYALS 1973-1993 (George Brett)
20: BREWERS 1974-1993 (Robin Yount)
15: TWINS 1984 (Kirby Puckett)-1998 (Paul Molitor)
11: METS 1998 (Mike Piazza)-2008 (Pedro Martinez)
5: RANGERS 1989-1993 (Ryan)
4: EXPOS 1994-1997 (Martinez)
3: ATHLETICS 2006-2008 (Frank Thomas)
3: PADRES 2006 (Piazza)-2008 (Greg Maddux)
3: CUBS 2004-2006 (Maddux)
3: INDIANS 1999-2001 (Roberto Alomar)
2: MARINERS 2009-2010 (Griffey)
2: DIAMONDBACKS 2007-2008 (Randy Johnson)
2: BLUE JAYS 2007-2008 (Thomas)
2: YANKEES 2005-2006 (Johnson)
2: RAYS 1998-1999 (Wade Boggs)
1: PHILLIES 2009 (Martinez)
1: RED SOX 2009 (Smoltz)
1: GIANTS 2009 (Johnson)
1: CARDINALS 2009 (Smoltz)
1: DODGERS 2008 (Maddux)
1: WHITE SOX 2008 (Griffey)
1: MARLINS 1998 (Piazza)
1: ANGELS 1997 (Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray)
The Yankees’ most recent streak will obviously hop up once Derek Jeter is enshrined; Wade Boggs will be the beginner (1993), with Jeter wrapping up in 2014. Though they could get an earlier bump if the voters do the right thing and put Mike Mussina where he belongs; he was in the Bronx from 2001-2008. The Astros will be unaffected by Jeff Bagwell‘s potential induction, as his career ended before Biggio’s.
Tim Raines could have an impact on the Expos, bringing them down to a one-year streak (2001), while keeping the Marlins at one year (2002), a few years later than Piazza’s week there. His four games in Baltimore will not affect the Orioles, as they occurred in 2001, which is currently the end of their streak. But should Vladimir Guerrero be ushered in, the O’s will get dropped to a one-year streak (2011), as will the Rangers (2010). The Angels, meanwhile, would get a boost to six years (2004-2009), and the Expos would be extended to 2003 and would be unaffected by Raines’ 2001 return.
Trevor Hoffman could extend the Padres’ streak backwards to 1993, but would reduce the Brew Crew to a two-year club (2009-2010).
The Famer-less Rockies’ only chance at dropping the goose egg comes in the form of Larry Walker, who spent ten years in Colorado. In my estimation he has a much better chance than Todd Helton, whose entire 17-year career was spent with the team, but it’s still a longshot.
The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees were announced last night, and neither name was a surprise. The legendary centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and slugging catcher Mike Piazza will be enshrined as baseball immortals this summer in Cooperstown, New York.
I decided to create a couple of “fun cards” to commemorate the newest legends, but I wanted to go back to their rookie years. Griffey, a #1 overall draft pick for the Mariners in 1987, debuted in the big leagues in 1989. He was included in all the major sets, either in the base set or the year-end updates: Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps, and Upper Deck. So I had to think outside the box, and decided to borrow a design from Fleer’s basketball release in 1989.
Piazza was a bit easier when it came to the design. While he was featured in the Bowman set, Fleer was the only other company that saw fit to include him in their year-end set. After all, what type of impact could a 62nd-round catcher possibly have in baseball? Topps and Upper Deck completely ignored Piazza, while Donruss saw fit to include him in an insert set, but not the base. As I am a bigger fan of Topps than any of the others (at least when it comes to the 1992 design), I decided to make a Topps card-that-should-have-been for him. However, in 1992, Piazza wore uniform #25 rather than #31, so it was a bit tricky tracking down an era-appropriate photo.
I’m happy with the way these turned out, and I’m happy to see these players getting their just due. Griffey, three votes short of a unanimous selection, and Piazza, who had to wait until his fourth year of eligibility, are true examples of baseball done right.
- 1980 Topps Ken Griffey All Star MVP [Cards That Never Were]
- 38-year old Reds rookie on 1957 Topps custom [Bob Lemke’s Blog]
- 1975 Topps Rookie Catchers-Outfielders: Gary Carter, Marc Hill, Danny Meyer, Leon Roberts [Rating the Rookies]
- Box Score: A Recap of My 2015 Season [The Infinite Baseball Card Set]
- 15 Amazing ‘Star Wars’/Classic Album Cover Mashups [mental_floss]
- Star Wars Cast Sings “Stayin’ Alive” [The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube]
- 29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford [mental_floss]
Purchase Mötley Crüe music.
I can’t believe it’s over.
This morning I posted 15 “fun cards” in the style of 1938 Goudey baseball cards that I drew 25 years ago at twjfuncards.tumblr.com. I have posted these here before, but the image links expired long ago, so I decided to re-upload them to tumblr for posterity.
I remember working on these at my desk in my bedroom, and a few nights ago I told my son to go find some index cards and colored pencils for me. But I am hesitant to try again. When I get up the courage to attempt a new drawing, I will post it here for everyone to laugh at. In the meantime, enjoy the 25-year old “fun cards.”
Perhaps the greatest father/son combo in the history of baseball…Ken Griffey Sr. and his son, Junior. Happy Father’s Day to all!