Washington Mt. Rushmore of Sports: Ken Griffey Jr.

To kick off the new year, we are reposting our Washington Mount Rushmore of Sports (originally published in 2009). This series of posts was inspired by an earlier feature by ESPN’s Sportscenter. [Gary Payton] [Steve Largent] [Don James]

“The Natural” 

Having Ken Griffey Jr. on Washington’s Mount Rushmore of Sports is a no-brainer. Ken Griffey Jr. is a Seattle icon. It is hard to comprehend the actual importance of Ken Griffey Jr. to this city. In this piece we’ll take time to highlight the reasons why he is so important to the city of Seattle and the state of Washington.

In what might have been the worst season statistically for Griffey, in 1995, he was without a doubt the most important factor in the magical season. He saved baseball in Seattle. Despite getting injured early in the season, Griffey would come back and help the Mariners eventually tie the Angels for the AL West lead. The Mariners eventually made it to the playoffs and in Game 5 of the ALDS, this happened:

The game was tied, 4-4, forced to extra innings. On the top of the 11th, the Yankees drew first blood in overtime by a single by Randy Velarde driving in pinch runner Pat Kelly to seize a 5-4 lead. But the Mariners Refused to Lose. Little Joey Cora started things off by drag bunting and safely reaching 1st base, then Griffey singled and Cora advanced to third base.

With no outs, runners on first and third, Edgar Martinez stepped to the plate. Jack McDowell winded up, and Edgar hit a double into left field, scoring Cora to tie the game. And then Griffey was waved in, all the way from first, the throw was late, and Griffey slid into home late safely. Cementing an ALCS BERTH! In one of the most celebrated images in Mariners history, Griffey was mauled by his teammates at home plate as they were one series away from the world championship! The words of Dave Niehaus echoed, “MY OH MY”!!!

The Home Run King
If there is one thing I remember about playing baseball when I was a kid, it is probably my obsession of copying batting stances of my favorite ballplayers. Without a doubt, my favorite batting stance to imitate was Griffey’s. The way he swayed his bat back and forth combined with his effortless beautiful swing was the smoothest and coolest thing to imitate.

I do not think there is a sexier swing in baseball than Griffey’s. It’s perfect. The product of this swing? Home runs. Lots of them. In his 13 seasons with the M’s, Griffey belted at total of 417 Home Runs. If injuries hadn’t killed his career, he’d easily be competing at the top of the All-time Home run list.

But I guess being fifth isn’t too bad in itself.

Golden Glove
Legends can do it all. We all knew Michael Jordan could score, but we also knew that Michael Jordan could shut down any opposing team’s best player. He was able to dominate on both sides, offense and defense. Ken Griffey Jr. could not only swing his bat, but he also could play some defense.

He had incredible range and he could leap the wall with relative ease, robbing a lot of home runs. He gave it all when he was playing defense, a certain aspect that many good players are lacking.

If there was a list ranking the top five most important people to the city of Seattle, Griffey would be a lock. He means that much to this city. He gave this city a common joy. We witnessed one of the best players to ever step on a baseball field. We witnessed greatness.