Contributed by Richard Cuicchi
During the first week of the year, Ken Griffey Jr.’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame was the top baseball story. He missed being a unanimous selection by only three votes, although he did garner the highest percentage of votes in the history of the Hall, besting Tom Seaver who was the previous holder of that distinction.
What a lot of people forget is just how good of a career Junior Griffey’s father had. Of all the father-son combos in the history of the game, the Griffeys rank at the top along with Barry and Bobby Bonds. George Sisler, Eddie Collins, Yogi Berra, Pete Rose, and Tony Gwynn are the fathers of some of the most recognizable father-son pairs, but their combined family performances pale those of the Griffeys.
From 1973 to 2010, there was a Griffey playing in the major leagues, as their careers actually overlapped, something that had never happened before.
So what should you know about Ken Griffey Sr.?
- Griffey Sr. was born in Denora, Pennsylvania, the same little town that produced Stan Musial, the former St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer. Ken’s father Buddy was a left-handed third baseman who played on the same high school team as Musial in the 1930s. Junior Griffey was also born in Denora (population around 9,000), likely making it the U. S. city with the highest number of Hall of Famers per capita.
- Griffey Sr. was a member of the famed Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati Reds teams of the early to mid-1970s that dominated the National League. Griffey played on two World Series championship teams in 1975 and 1976. His batting average with the Reds was .307, yet he was a minor star since he played on those Reds teams with future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez.
- Griffey Sr. was also a member of the storied New York Yankee franchise, except he played there during its drought years during the 1980s when they failed to produce a division winner. However, his 1985 Yankees team won 97 games but finished in second place behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL West Division. Griffey’s teammates on that team included three future Hall of Famers–Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Phil Niekro, as well as Don Mattingly, Don Baylor, Ron Guidry, and Dave Righetti.
- When Junior Griffey made his major league debut in 1989, the father-son combo became the first to be active in the major leagues at the same time. In 1990, nearing the end of his career, the Cincinnati Reds allowed Griffey Sr. to sign with the Seattle Mariners, where Junior was playing. On August 31, they started in the same game for the Mariners, each collecting singles in the first inning. In their game together on September 14, they hit back-to-back home runs.
- Griffey Sr. was a three-time National League All-Star, claiming the midsummer classic’s MVP title in 1980. He contended for the league batting title in 1976 with a .336 average. He had a career .297 batting average, compared to Junior’s .284. Griffey Sr. had similar speed (200 career stolen bases to Junior’ 194), but far less power (152 home runs and .431 slugging percentage to Junior’s 630 home runs and .538 slugging percentage). Together, they rank among baseball’s most prolific families in offensive categories.