The Kid is going home one more time.
Two-time darling of the Emerald City Ken Griffey Jr. joined the ultimate elite group of Major League Baseball Players today when he was announced as one of two players voted in by the BBWAA for the 2016 Hall of Fame Class. Griffey did so in typical impressive Griffey fashion, breaking Tom Seaver's 24 year old record of highest percentage of votes ever by earning 99.3% of the vote, being named on 437 of the 440 ballots returned.
The now 46 year old who debuted for Seattle in 1989 as a 19 year old flashed his familiar smile on the MLB Network interview immediately following the announcement, and seemed surprised by breaking the record despite unquestionably being one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Griffey's now official Hall of Fame, 22-year career included a slash line of .284/.370/.538, 630 home runs (6th All-Time), 1,836 RBI (15th All-Time), 13 All-Star Games, 10 Gold Gloves (10 straight from 1990-1999), seven Silver Slugger Awards, four American League home run crowns and a unanimous AL MVP award in 1997.
Even more than those stats, though, he was the key figure that saved baseball in Seattle. Leading Seattle to an unlikely playoff run in 1995 returning from injury to fly around the bases to score the winning run in the most memorable moment in Mariners' history.
He would lead them to the playoffs again in 1997 and truly was THE figure that legitimately put Seattle on the map as an icon who transcended markets. He again transcended the game when his push to honor the great Jackie Robinson ultimately resulted in MLB's now annual recognition of Jackie Robinson Day.
Griffey infamously left Seattle while he was still in his prime to be closer to home, ending up being traded in the 1999 offseason and playing for the Cincinnati Reds for nine seasons. He left as the franchise leader in a number of offensive categories and left many fans feeling hurt and betrayed. But during the 2007 season when the Reds visited Seattle for a three game series in late-June, Ken was welcomed by huge, adoring sell-out crowds and a pre-game ceremony to honor him, making it clear that the love was still there for number 24. That led to him returning to Seattle for the 2009 and 2010 season, where Griffey would tack on 19 home runs, 64 RBI and a few more sprinkles of that special Griffey magic to his legacy before bowing out in mid-2010, riding away quietly after struggling in his 40 year old season.
Seattle Mariners' Chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln said in a statement released by the team, "On behalf of everyone associated with the Seattle Mariners, congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. on his election today to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is a great day for Mariners fans and really all baseball fans to celebrate his outstanding career and love of the game."
While his record-breaking vote total seemed to come as a surprise to him, this day is nothing close to surprising to those who watched Griffey play. He always looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and now he finally is.
Griffey will officially be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York along with catcher Mike Piazza on Sunday, July 24th. There seems to be little question that he will go in donning a Mariners hat, the only real question is whether or not it will be on backwards.
Congratulations, Ken Griffey Jr.!
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