I remember when my brother opened a pack of Upper Deck and pulled out his rookie card, the one of him smiling into the camera, bat on his shoulder, wearing that yellow-and-royal blue Mariners cap, 19 years old. (It got up to $75 in Beckett!) I remember the oldsters who complained about his backwards hat. I remember asking for his flip-down sunglasses for Christmas. I can remember watching his dad play. Wow, I really need to get my retirement funds lined up.
The coolest baseball player I ever saw retired in 2010. His last good season happened in 2007, and his last really great season came in 2005. Injuries ravaged his career and changed him as a player for nearly all of his career’s last decade. He played until 40, and he may or may not have fallen asleep in the clubhouse in the middle of a game during his final season, a retirement tour with the Mariners. All this I know. I should have seen it coming. I didn’t. Well, when time does Bingo start Saturday night?
Griffey is closer to 50 than 40. He’s been retired for five years. His kid plays wide receiver for the University of Arizona. His name is Trey. I remember reading about it when that kid was born, thinking Trey was the coolest name for a kid. Hey, do you know a guy who can get my will in order?
Griffey will become Hall of Fame eligible at a fascinating time. Nobody has come forward with any reasonable accusation of him using performance enhancing drugs. His 11-year peak from 1990-2000 – when he hit .299/.384/.579 with 422 homers and played breathtaking defense in center field – makes him one of the greatest ever. He really should have a chance to become the first player unanimously voted in. But then again, the backlog of players has led some voters, not illogically, to strategically leave off the most obvious Hall of Famers in order to vote for other deserving players, and … oh my goodness, we’re having a sober Hall of Fame discussion regarding Ken Griffey Jr. Eternity is near.
I watched Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken and Barry Larkin and Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas – those guys were all Hall of Famers, faces on plaques, legends. Ken Griffey Jr. was the player you pretended to be when you played home run derby. He was a Super Nintendo game. He was a Nike commercial. I thought he still was. By this time 2016, he will be a Hall of Famer. The Kid will be in Cooperstown. The future will be permanent.
Man. Pass the Geritol before I get any more depressed.
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