There’s a pitcher I know who gave up three home runs to Ken Griffey — three of the 600 — and when I asked what it was like to give up a homer to Junior, he said: ”You know, that swing is so damn pretty, it’s almost an honor.“
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There’s a baseball agent I know who has been with Ken Griffey Jr. from the start, from before the start. One day, Ken Griffey Sr. said to him: I trust you, and I would like you to represent my son. They have been together now for 20 years, through glory and injury and a few boos, through frustration and joy and impossibly bright lights and 600 home run trots.
“Has he changed at all?” I asked the agent. He thought about it for a moment.
“Not really,” he said.
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There’s an old baseball man I knew who saw Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson and Albert Pujols all hit home runs. He loved baseball with an intensity that never stopped surprising people around him. Wherever he went, people would ask him to name his favorite, and he never could do that. He loved too many of them. He would talk about Ted Williams’ swing, and he would talk about the way Roberto Clemente threw, and the way Willie Mays’ cap flew off, and the way Cool Papa Bell ran around the bases.
“But your favorite,” the people would say, coaxing him, and he would smile, and he would say, “Well, I sure like that Ken Girffey Jr.”
“Why’s that?” people asked.
“Because,” Buck O’Neil said. “He’s having so much fun.”
The first time I ever bought a baseball jersey was a Ken Griffey Jr Reds jersey after the trade was announced. (For those who don’t know, I’m also a Reds fan. Fortunately, rooting for the Reds and the Phillies has never caused a conflict since they haven’t been good at the same in recent memory.) I was very excited to see Griffey return to his home town to play for the Reds. One of the great players coming home which would allow his grandmother to see him play professionally for the first time. He’s still clearly having fun despite the injuries he’s endured over the years, and is one of the few superstars not to be tainted with accusations of steroid use. This is a great day for Junior, both a great player and a great person by all accounts.