The Griffey Bear Suit Bet

It's a story I must tell, for it's already legendary in my circle of friends. It all started on one otherwise noneventful April day...

So for those of you who don't already know, I am, and always will be, a huge Griffey fan. I love the guy. I miss the guy. And these days, I spend far too much time dreaming of scenarios where he will return to Seattle.

Everyone knows his years in Cincinnati have been forgettable. The Kid has seemingly accumulated more injuries than homers since arriving from Seattle, and in the process he's fallen out of favor to many Reds fans.

I, however, never have lost faith that he'd return to form. When 2003 started, it was supposed to be that time. Where he put the injuries to hamstrings and knees and wrists behind him. It was going to be his time to shine.

Or so I thought.

I believed this enough that when a friend of mine challenged me to put my money (and pride) where my mouth was, I took it.

The bet? Simple. We agreed on numbers that Griffey had to reach over the course of the season - a .285 batting average, 30 homeruns, and 100 RBI. By mid-90's standards, these were all-star break numbers. And this, afterall, was to be the year where Junior returned to form.

If Griffey met all three of those standards, I would win. If he failed to meet one or more, I'd lose. It was as easy as that.

So what was riding on the line? This is where it got hairy, literally. We agreed that "the loser would have to go to the bar of the winner's choice, dress up in a bear suit, and drink Lebatts until the winner said stop."

When Griffey dislocated his shoulder two weeks into the season, I knew I was in serious trouble. I was devastated. It had happened again. Junior was hurt, and his season appeared in doubt once more. On top of that, it looked like I had already lost the bet.

But the former Mariners' centerfielder came back quicker than most expected, missing only a month. And though his batting average slumped in the low .200s, his power returned. At one point, he hit homers in five consecutive games. He was back, it seemed.

If only he could have stayed healthy.

Junior, as we all know, tore a tendon in his ankle in mid-July, cutting another season short.

Guess who was wearing the bear suit? Me!

So on August 11, I went out and rented a $50 bear suit from the costume shop down the road from Key Arena. Was spending $50 part of the bet, I wondered. At this point, it didn't matter. It was too late to negotiate. I put the money down, knowing there was a crowd depending on me that night at the bar.

At 8 p.m., I came home from a long day of work to meet up with my buddies and transform myself into a bear. By 8:45, we were out the door.

We arrived at The Ram in Seattle's U-District at around 9:30. It was go time. There was no wussing out. With my friends behind me, I walked through the doors. People stared from all directions, and I quickly realized that it wasn't me who was going to be embarrassed, rather all those people who were with me. The puzzled looks from all around made me laugh from inside my suffocating bear head.

We walked through the restaurant area into the bar, which was packed to the brim. Standing room only. It was Sunday, half-price night for everything on the menu. That meant little place to roam for a man in a bear suit.

While most of my friends took seats, I was lucky enough to have a couple people stick it out with the bear. In case you ever wondered who your true friends are, well they are the ones that sit next to you at a crowded bar pushing straws together so you can drink beer through the small hole in your muzzle.

Three hours and about five beers sucked through extendo-straws later, the party was over.

It was a night I won't soon forget, but a bet I won't hesitate to make again. Why, you ask? Let's just say that 2004 is Griffey's year!

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