"You're better than anyone I ever had. And you're the best goddamned hitter I ever saw."
--Pop Fisher (The Natural)
Today Ken Griffey Jr goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Natural in his prime may have been the greatest player to ever lace 'em up. A great visual tour of his career highlights can be seen here.
Like many others, I fondly recall his warehouse shot at the HR Derby in Baltimore in 1993. I marveled at his sweet swing, turned around cap, and easy demeanor. He was special.
My favorite personal memory, however, was during Junior's time with the Reds. It was late summer 2001 and I had scored a couple of box seat tickets game from my boss. My brother and I headed down to watch the Reds play the Cardinals at Cinergy Field, better known to me as Riverfront Stadium. Not having been to many Reds games recently, I was still getting used to the opened outfield look and real grass--modifications made in lieu of Great American Ballpark going up next door. I remember a young Albert Pujols hitting one far over the signs in dead center field early in the game.
The game went into extra innings. Junior came to bat in the bottom of the 11th with no one on. He connected on one to left center. Both the center and left fielders jumped against the fence for the ball but couldn't come up with it. I glanced at Griffey who, after rounding first, had briefly slowed thinking that the ball had either left the yard or had been caught. Once he saw that the ball was still in play and had caromed away from the outfielders, Junior turned on the jets. In our seats behind the bag, my brother and I waved him around like third base coaches once we saw he had a chance. He slid across home and popped up with arms held high and that patented grin on his face. We high fived as The Kid was mobbed at home plate.
My most exciting moment ever at a Reds game (and that's saying something). It was also Griffey's only career inside the park home run.
Hats off to Junior, another fellow Moe alum, and the only first pick of the MLB draft ever, to make it into the Hall of Fame.