Unfortunately overshadowed by Armando Gallaraga’s blown perfect game was the announcement that one of the best baseball player’s of the last two decades was retiring:
SEATTLE (AP) — In his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. was considered the best player in baseball, on pace to rewrite the record books.
Injuries derailed his chance to become the home run king. His spot as one of the game’s all-time greats is without question.
Now relegated to part-time duty and with little pop left in that perfect swing, Griffey unexpectedly decided Wednesday night to retire after 22 mostly brilliant seasons.
The Kid that once saved baseball in the Pacific Northwest with his backward hat, giddy teenage smile and unrivaled talent, had become a shell of the player who dominated the 1990s.
A star from the time he was the overall No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft, Griffey also played with his hometown Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. He hit .284 with 1,836 RBIs.
But his greatest seasons, by far, came in Seattle.
Griffey played in 1,685 games with the Mariners and hit .292 with 417 homers, most coming in the homer-friendly Kingdome, and 1,216 RBIs. He won the AL MVP in 1997 and practically saved a franchise that was in danger of relocating when he first came up.
Griffey returned to the Mariners in 2009 and almost single-handedly transformed what had been a fractured, bickering clubhouse with his leadership, energy and constant pranks.
Griffey signed a one-year deal last November for one more season in Seattle after he was carried off the field by his teammates after the final game of 2009. He hit .214 last season with 19 homers as a part-time DH. He was limited by a swollen left knee that required an operation in the offseason.
But the bat never came alive in 2010. Griffey was hitting only .184 with no homers and seven RBIs and recently went a week without playing. There was a report earlier this season — which Griffey denied — that he’d fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game.
The swing that hit as many as 56 homers in a season had lost its punch and Griffey seemed to understand his time was coming to a close.
Griffey ended his career with 630 home runs, placing him 5th on the all-time list behind Willie Mays, with only Alex Rodriguez (590) within range of surpassing him anytime soon. But for his injuries, though, it’s conceivable that Griffey would have ended his career challenging, if not surpassing, Barry Bonds’ record of 762 home runs.
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