Tomorrow is the birthday of Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. Like Mickey Mantle from my youth, Griffey turned me back to baseball as an adult. It came long after I had abandoned the game 20 years earlier.
It began once again with the excitement of my ten-year old daughter Jaime in the summer of 1989. We were at a neighborhood 7-11 when she talked me into buying a few packs of Upper Deck baseball cards. I hadn’t bought a baseball card in years! The last were used to motorize the sound of my bicycle. They were pretty effective, but the clothes pins couldn’t keeping them from flying off! Among those new cards we found “The Kid”s highly sought after rookie card. Jaime couldn’t believe it! It was the most valuable card in the 800-card set!
I’d never heard of him, but Jaime had! Not even yet a major league player, Upper Deck somehow knew, he soon would be. Ken Griffey, Jr. was going places. These baseball cards were like nothing I’d seen before, they were a work of art, pristine, glossy… darn near perfect! His card was beautiful. He was just an 18-year old kid and I was hooked!
I remember all the Mariner games I attended with my children Jaime, Matt, Sean and Devin, and often with extended family. Memorable was the excitement in seeing “Junior” play, and all the effort we made after games, just to get close to him. Of course the kids wanted his autograph, (which we never got). Griffey was rarely accessible. It brought my kids and I together for many hours of entertainment at home in front of the TV, as well as at the old King Dome.
I remember well the night in October of 1995. My kids and I huddled in front of the television for game 5 of the division series. The Mariners vs the Yankees! With the series tied up at 2-2, the M’s battled from behind to score two runs sending the game into extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the eleventh, Edgar Martinez our designated hitter came to the plate, with runners on first and third.. With a single swing Edgar hit a double down the left field line driving our hero home to win the series!
To say the least pandemonium broke out in our living room as we jumped and shouted with utter joy! The M’s were just one series away from the World Series! It was the greatest moment in Mariner history! We had shared it, the kids and I together. Baseball and Ken Griffey Jr. did all that for us.
Those are just a few of the great memories of those days long gone by… and to think, these many years later, after first seeing him on that baseball card, he is now immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first in Cooperstown to wear a Seattle Mariners hat!
Thanks Ken Griffey Jr. Thank you for the many hours my kids and I spent cheering and watching you play. They were fun and wonderful days that brought us together as a family. Days to be cherished for sure. Days to be remembered. Those were times I once took for granted, thinking… it would always be that way. In many, many ways I miss them so …
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