Over the past 20 years, Major League Baseball witnessed many challenges ranging from the Player’s Strike in 1995 to the steroid controversy. We have seen great players reduced to mere skeletons of what they once were. The fan’s perception of the game has changed with all of this. However, through it all, one player consistently remained who he was. That player, was Ken Griffey Jr.
As I got older, I realized that many truths we all grow up believing about athletes and sports, really were not truths at all. While you may be saying “duh,” it is a difficult thing to come to terms with. After all, we unfortunately forget these players are human and for many simply money driven. Our culture elevates these entertainers to levels of importance that really should not be. Ken Griffey Jr. however always seemed to rise above the rest. His career numbers are extremely impressive considering the time lost to injury. His 630 home runs, career .284 batting average, 10 Gold Gloves, and the 1997 AL MVP illustrate the talent that he was on the field. What is more impressive, he did it naturally.
I consider myself to be a baseball purist. Hank Aaron is the all-time home run leader, and Roger Maris still holds the single season home run record. However, Griffey is number 5 on the all-time home run list. Regardless of what A-Rod does, Griffey will remain number 5.
As fan’s we all appreciate Griffey’s performance on the field over the years. The game will move on, as it always does. So in 2015 we can all look back and remember what he did for baseball as he is inducted into Cooperstown. Let us hope that some current players, and more importantly future players will learn from Griffey Jr.’s example. If so, his legacy will be cemented even further. He played the game as it should in an era that was ripe with controversy and skewed numbers. We fans will simply say thanks Junior and enjoy your retirement.