Ken Griffey Jr. is about to become the sixth player in history to hit 600 home runs and no one seems to care.
Sure SportsCenter shows the Reds’ highlights every time he hits a home run, but when Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs last year, he had a much bigger media throng surrounding him. Rodriguez being in New York might explain it, but when one considers the fact that Junior would be the only player of this era to hit 600 home runs and not have any steroid allegations on his record, the non-news that his story is making is amazing.
Perhaps Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa stole the spotlight by hitting theirs first and in such a close proximity, but if it weren’t for those players allegedly using performance enhancing substances, Griffey would be fourth all time on a list that would look like this: Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Griffey. Pretty elite company.
Not coincidentally, Griffey is the only one of the three modern players to be voted onto the All Century Team in 1999. While his election may have been premature, it illustrated the effect that he has had on the game.
Unfortunately, “The Kid” has spent much of the last seasons of his career hurt in a city that barely ever gets national publicity.
It’s as if many forget that during the nineties, Junior had the hearts of baseball fans young and old. The 10 time Gold Glove winner made plays in center field that still have some players wondering why their home run numbers aren’t higher.
He batted with such consistency and power that he earned seven Silver Slugger awards during the 1990s.
Despite being selected to 13 All Star games and winning an MVP award, his quest for the 600 home run mark hasn’t even raised an eyebrow on the national baseball landscape.
He probably won’t reach Mays at 660 and he will soon be passed by Alex Rodriguez, but his accomplishment should be more than a blip on the baseball radar screen.
Many forget that he once hit home runs at such a rate that he led the American League in home runs per at bat in 1997 and ’98.
Once again, if it weren’t for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa juicing during the 1998 season, the home run news would have completely focused on Junior who was on his way to leading the American League in home runs with 56 for the second year in a row.
Griffey is no doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer. He optimized everything that a player wants to be in his prime.
During the nineties, fans all over the country were mesmerized by the baby faced center fielder who would show up every year at the Home Run Derby with his hat on backwards and fight for the title despite being the skinniest person in the field.
When asked about steroids, Griffey has claimed that he still has the same small biceps he had when he arrived in the league.
He was also once a member of the most famous father-son tandem ever to play in the majors. (This is another title that was taken away from him and his father by an aforementioned alleged steroid user.)
While performance enhancers may have raised the popularity of some players, they probably negatively affected the honest ones like Griffey.
Hopefully baseball will honor Junior’s accomplishment in the coming weeks as it should be honored especially since it will be something that baseball fans won’t have seen honestly done since Mays did it almost 50 years ago.
This writer can be reached by e-mail at BJordan@BusinessofSportsNetwork.com,