The Kid’s in the Hall.
Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., the most iconic player in Mariners history, was elected Wednesday to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a record margin in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“He was the best player in baseball,” former manager Lou Piniella recalled. “There is nothing he couldn’t do on a baseball field. And he did it so gracefully.”
Griffey, 46, received 99.3 percent or 437 of the 440 votes cast and will be formally inducted into the game’s shrine along with Mike Piazza on July 24 in a ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“What I remember the most,” former teammate Edgar Martinez said, “is his talent, his great sense of humor, his personality and his love for the game. He wanted to play the game and he did it the right way, hard daily.”
The balloting also provided encouragement Martinez, another of the franchise’s cornerstones, when he jumped to 43.4 percent in his seventh year on the ballot.
Martinez, 53, has three more years to reach the 75-percent threshold required for election. He tallied just 27 percent a year ago and had topped out previously at 36.5 percent in 2012.
But the day belonged to Griffey, who broke the record for the highest percentage received in BBWAA balloting. Pitcher Tom Seaver held the previous record at 98.84 percent in 1992.
“Ken is the greatest player I have ever seen,” former teammate Raul Ibanez said. “He’s a great teammate. I actually got my first major-league hit and home run with his bats that he was kind enough to share with me.”
Griffey also became the first player elected primarily for his achievements while playing for the Mariners. He spent 13 of his 22 seasons in Seattle before retiring in June 2010.
“Whenever we needed something done on the field to win a ballgame,” former teammate Dan Wilson said, “Junior was the guy to do it.
“Whether it was a game-winning home run or a game-saving circus catch in the outfield, Junior always delivered. He is undoubtedly the most influential player in Mariners history.”
Long-time Mariners ace Randy Johnson was elected last season, but his plaque at the Hall depicts him in an Arizona cap.
While Griffey spent eight-plus seasons in Cincinnati and part of one season with the Chicago White Sox, there seems little doubt the cap on his plaque will have a Mariners logo.
The only real question is whether that cap, in typical Griffey exuberance, will be worn backward.
“He’s a superstar,” former teammate Ichiro Suzuki said, “and not just because of his numbers and his stats, but because of his personality. He was about caring for each other.
“It’s something we all need to learn from him, and it’s what makes him better than a superstar.”
Griffey achieved that status in Seattle. It was here that he hit 417 of his 630 career homers and won all four of his league home-run titles.
His time with the Mariners included his only Most Valuable Player award, 10 of his 13 All-Star selections, all 10 of his Gold Glove awards and all seven of his Silver Slugger awards.
“We love Ken Griffey Jr. because he is everything we would like to be,” Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson once said. “He’s young. He’s good-looking. He’s got the best smile in the world, and he’s a heroic athlete.
“He is a shot in the arm for baseball. He is what this game needs right now. He is creating excitement and making headlines just by his presence. There hasn’t been anyone like that since...Reggie Jackson.”
Griffey was a prodigy selected by the Mariners as a 17-year-old with the first pick in the 1987 draft. He grew up in the game as the son of outfielder Ken Griffey Sr., who spent 19 years in the big leagues.
“My dad would have bopped me on the head when I was a kid,” Griffey once said, “if I came home bragging about what I did on the field. He only wanted to know what the team did.”
Griffey’s father closed his career by playing for the Mariners, alongside his son, for 51 games in 1990-91.
“The butterflies will never go away when I watch him,” Griffey Sr. said. “I’m proud to see him play. Then, to see him play as well as he’s doing, that’s a dream come true.”
Junior reached the big leagues in 1989 at age 19 and quickly became a fan favorite far beyond the Pacific Northwest. His five-tool skills came spiced with a sweet left-handed swing and a killer smile wrapped in youthful joy.
“As long as I have fun playing,” Griffey once said, “the stats will take care of themselves.”
Alternately called The Kid, Junior and The Natural, Griffey was an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner in his second season. A year later, he won his first Silver Slugger award and reached 100 RBIs.
At age 23, Griffey hit 45 homers, which started a run in which he hit at least 40 in seven of eight years. He hit a career-high 56 homers in 1997 and 1998 and was picked in 1997 as the AL’s MVP.
“The thing I remember about Griffey is that swing,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout recalled. “That smooth swing. If I look back now, me and my buddies would be in the back yard; I am a righty and I would get up there lefty and just pretend.”
Griffey made it all seem joyfully effortless. Fans everywhere loved it.
“The other guys,” he said, “all they have to do is use their big butts and big python arms to hit homers. Me, I’m the little guy in the group. People always root for the little guy.”
Even so, Griffey’s time with the Mariners hit a rough patch in the late ’90s. There were various reasons, including concerns regarding whether the Mariners could afford to keep him once he qualified again for free agency.
Similar concerns prompted a 1998 trade that sent Johnson to Houston and left some questioning the organization’s commitment to winning. A Cincinnati native, Griffey began pushing for a trade to his hometown.
The Mariners capitulated and traded Griffey to the Reds on Feb. 10, 2000 for outfielder Mike Cameron, infielder Antonio Perez and pitchers Brett Tomko and Jake Myers.
“We gave up Babe Ruth,” Mariners club president Chuck Armstrong lamented at the time.
Shortly thereafter, the Reds reached agreement with Griffey on a nine-year deal for $112.5 million but, now 30, he just wasn’t the same player on a consistent basis.
Injuries began taking a toll. Griffey played more than 130 games only twice with the Reds. He hit 40 homers in his first season with Cincinnati but never again topped 35.
The Reds traded Griffey to the White Sox on July 31, 2008 for pitcher Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar. Griffey became a free agent after that season and chose to close his career by returning to the Mariners.
“Never could I imagine it would be like this coming back,” he said. “I spent 11 years here, 11 wonderful years here. I met my beautiful wife here. Two out of my three kids were born here. This place will be home.”
The reunion worked well in 2009, when Griffey hit 19 homers in 117 games, but he was batting just .184 through 33 games in 2010 when he chose to retire. It was no longer fun.
Griffey simply got in his car and began driving. He was in Montana when he reached Armstrong and made it official. His career was over. After 22 years in which he hit 630 homers, drove in 1,836 runs and batted .284.
The countdown to Cooperstown started on that day.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
TOP HALL OF FAME VOTING PERCENTAGES
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cal Ripken, Jr
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – Was the 1st overall selection in the 1987 June Draft.
1 – Is the only 1st overall selection in the Draft to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
7 – Won 7 Silver Slugger Awards: (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999). All with the Mariners.
8 – Consecutive games to hit a home run from July 20-28, 1993 to tie the MLB record.
8 – Hit 8 home runs on Opening Day in his career (1990, 1993, 1995, 1997-2, 1998, 1999, 2009), tied with Frank Robinson for most OD homers in Major League history.
10 – Won 10 Rawlings Gold Gloves (1990-1999) and is a member of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award All-Time Team. All with the Mariners.
10+ – Notched double-digits in home runs 20 separate seasons in his career (every year except 2002 & 2010).
13 – Was the 13th player ever to be a unanimous MVP when he swept the votes in 1997.
19.133 – The age when he made his MLB debut April 3, 1989 (19 years, 133 days)
29 – Is 1 of 29 players to appear in at least four decades (1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s).
29 – At age 29, was the youngest member of MLB’s All Century Team.
140 – Had 140 or more RBI in three straight seasons (1996-1998), joining Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as the first three players to accomplish that feat.
417 – Home runs as a Mariner, most in club history
630 – Career home runs to rank 6th all-time
▪ MVP Winner in 1997.
▪ Commissioners Historic Achievement Award winner in 2011.
▪ Team Roberto Clemente Award Winner five times (1996, 1997 & 1998 in Seattle; 2000 and 2006 in Cincinnati).
▪ Silver Slugger Winner (7x): 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
▪ Gold Glove Winner (10x): 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999.
▪ Louisville Slugger first Living Legend Award winner.
▪ Voted to the All-Star Game starting line-up 13 times, including 11 consecutive seasons from 1990-2000.
▪ He led the Majors in fan balloting 5 times.
▪ Competed in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby, 8 times, winning 3: 1994 in Pittsburgh, 1998-Colorado, 1999-Boston. Famously hit a ball off the warehouse in the 1993 Home Run Derby in Baltimore.
▪ Was the 1992 All-Star Game MVP. The Griffey’s (Jr. and Sr.) are the only father-son duo to both homer and receive MVP honors in an All-Star Game (Sr. accomplished both in 1980).
COMMUNITY HALL OF FAMER
▪ Ken Griffey Jr. Family Foundation supports local, regional and national causes, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Orlando, Cincinnati and elsewhere.
▪ American Public Diplomacy Envoy for the US State Department since 2008, and has travelled the world in that role.
▪ Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Board of Directors.
▪ Make-A-Wish Foundation Celebrity Recognition Award winner in 1994.
▪ Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) A. Bartlett Giamatti Award winner in 1994.
▪ Team Roberto Clemente Award Winner five times (1996, 1997 & 1998 in Seattle; 2000 and 2006 in Cincinnati).
▪ Finalist for the Hutch Award in 2005 and 2006.
▪ Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club in Seattle: Sponsored annual Christmas dinner, flew kids to Disneyworld, and volunteered his time with members.
▪ Appeared in 18 career postseason games with the Mariners (1995, 1997) and White Sox (2008).
▪ Is a career .290 (20x69) hitter in postseason play with 6 home runs and 11 RBI.
▪ Hit .391 (9x23) with 9 runs, 5 homers and 7 RBI in the 1995 ALDS vs. the Yankees.
▪ Hit .333 (7x21) with 2 doubles and one homer in 1995 ALCS vs. Cleveland.
GRIFFEY’S CAREER HIGHS
Most hits: 5 (two times, last on July 2, 1994 at New York Yankees)
Most home runs: 3 (two times; May 24, 1996 vs. New York Yankees, and April 25, 1997 at Toronto)
Most RBIs: 8 (July 8, 2000 vs. Cleveland while playing for Cincinnati)
Most stolen bases: 3 (July 26, 1998 at Baltimore)
Longest hitting streak: 16 games (May 10-28, 1999)
Career grand slams: 15 (last on May 20, 2006 at Detroit while playing for Cincinnati)
GRIFFEY ON ALL-TIME CAREER LISTS
630 home runs: sixth (Barry Bonds is first with 762).
1,192 extra-base hits: tied for seventh with Rafael Palmeiro (Hank Aaron, 1,477)
1,836 RBIs: 14th (Hank Aaron, 2,297)
5,271 total bases: 13th (Hank Aaron, 6,856)
1,662 runs: 26th (Rickey Henderson, 2,295)
524 doubles: 43rd (Tris Speaker, 792)
2,781 hits: 45th (Pete Rose, 4,256)
55 multi-homer games: tied for eighth with Jimmie Foxx (Babe Ruth, 72)
*1: April 3, 1989 vs. Oakland (Dave Stewart)
500: May 7, 1992 vs. Toronto (Jack Morris)
1,000: Aug. 16, 1995 at Minnesota (Frankie Rodriguez)
1,500: July 14, 1998 vs. Texas (John Burkett)
**2,000: June 18, 2000 vs. Seattle (Joel Piniero)
**2,500: July 18, 2007 at Atlanta (John Smoltz)
* — first major-league at-bat; ** — with Cincinnati.