A Look Back at Ken Griffey Jr’s Career v. the New York Yankees
On Wednesday Ken Griffey Jr. might just become the first player in baseball history to be unanimously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As a matter of fact, according to Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker Ryan Thibs, through 156 ballots, each and every one has included Griffey thus far:
When all is said and done, whether it’s by unanimous decision or not, Griffey will enter Cooperstown with 630 home runs and regarded as perhaps the most likable player of his generation. Similar to Derek Jeter, Griffey is one of the few greats of his era untouched by PED’s or steroid scandals. He was a true baseball player who played the game like a gentleman, and perhaps even more special is that we all watched him grow up right in front of our eyes one perfect swing at a time.
Now before Griffey and his trademarked backwards baseball cap is set to take a shot at history by beating the record of 98.8% (425 of 430 ballots) held by Tom Seaver, let’s take a look at his dominant career against our very own New York Yankees.
Believe it or not, there was a time in baseball during the early-to-mid-90’s when the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees were a legitimate rivalry all thanks to the star power of Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, a young Alex Rodriguez, Don Mattingly, the ‘Core Four’ and of course Ken Griffey Jr just to name a few.
It’s safe to say that Griffey Jr. left a lasting imprint that will forever be remembered by the New York Yankees.
On one cool night in the Bronx in the beginning of the 1990 season on April 26th, Yankees outfielder Jesse Barfield smashed a shot to left-center field off ‘The Big Unit’ Randy Johnson. That ball was supposed to be Barfield’s 200th career home run, but a than 20-year old Griffey raced back to the warning track, leapt, and made perhaps one of the greatest defensive plays in baseball history to rob Barfield of a milestone home run.
It was the third out of the inning and Griffey sprinted back to the visiting dugout in Yankee Stadium with that famous smile that we saw throughout his career.
Flash forward to the summer of 1995 when Ken Griffey Jr. was activated from the disabled list after breaking his wrist on another spectacular web gem catch. He was activated off the DL on August 1, 1995 and he struggled a bit at the plate, but on August 24th that all would change.
With two outs in the ninth inning against than Yankees closer John Wetteland, Griffey stepped up to the plate in The Kingdome with the game on the line, and of course ‘The Kid’ delivered with a two-run home run – his first homer since being activated off the DL and the first walk-off hit of his career… of course against the New York Yankees.
More importantly, that home run turned the Mariners season around, as it sparked a remarkable comeback from 13.5 games back of the Angels in the AL West and led to their eventual American League Divisional Championship.
Ironically the Mariners and Yankees met that year in ALDS, and of course Griffey was one of the key contributors to the Mariners beating the Yankees three games to two and advancing to the ’95 ALCS.
Not only did Griffey crush a total of five home runs against the Yankees in that series, but he also scored the eventual series clinching run in extra innings of game 5, and it was perhaps one of the more important runs in Seattle Mariners history.
With ‘The Rooster’ Joey Cora on first base representing the trying run. Griffey stepped into the batters box and singled up the middle sending Cora to third. With runners on the corners, Edgard Martinez delivered “The Double” that sent Ken Griffey Jr. as fast as he could around the bases, he went on to touch ’em all and slide into home, sending the Mariners to the 1995 ALCS.
Two years later in 1997 Ken Griffey Jr. became the first Seattle Mariner to win an American League Most Valuable Player Award after batting .304 with a career high 56 home runs and 147 RBIs.
Of course he started that very season against the New York Yankees in dominant fashion, hitting the first two of his 56 homers off Yankees ace David Cone on Opening Night of the ’97 season. By the end of May he had belted 24 home runs. On June 2, 1997 he hit home run number 25, missing Yankees legend Babe Ruth by one day as the fastest player to 25 home runs in a single season.
Ken Griffey Jr. wen’t on to dominate the Yankees for the duration of his career. In 133 games played against the Bronx Bombers, Griffey averaged .311 with 36 home runs and 102 RBI’s. 19 of those 36 home runs came off the left-handed bat of Griffey in Yankee Stadium.
Though I’ve certainly missed watching Griffey play the wonderful game of baseball, I definitely do not miss his dominant performances against the Yankees.
Congrats on a wonderful career and staff here at Yanks Go Yard would like to congratulate Ken Griffey Jr. on taking his rightful spot in Cooperstown!