Summary: When all is said and done, what will your legacy look like?
It was incredible. On August 6th they were thirteen and one half games out of first place. By September 21st the Seattle Mariners were in sole possession of first place in the American League Western Division. The California Angels had collapsed The Mariners had climbed. It was one of the greatest pennant drives in major league history.
For 63 games of that spectacular baseball season, The Kid, Ken Griffey, Jr., sat on the bench with a broken wrist. Some called him The Natural. Many considered him the best all around baseball player alive. Yet, he sat on the bench. The first part of that season left him out of the line-up.
His frustration grew. His desire to help his team could be indulged only through cheers and encouragement.
Then came that late season charge. Ken Griffy Jr. finally took the field. He played like tomorrow no longer existed. Number 24 sailed across center field making one spectacular play after another. Swinging the bat, his offensive production placed fear in opposing pitchers. And then, in the eighth inning of game 159 in a 162 game season, he stroked a grand slam against the Texas Rangers giving his team a 6-2 victory. With only three games left in the season the Seattle Mariners had closed to within two games of first place. The miracle was under way.
When regular season play came to an end, the Mariners had drawn dead-even with the California Angels for first place. The Division Pennant would hinge on a one game play off — my boys and I were there.
My two sons and I love to sit in the Kingdome when the Mariners are making baseball history. Watching Number 24, The Kid, perform sometimes takes our breath away. During that pennant fever stretch of ‘95 we were sucking wind big time!
I still recall when Ken Griffey, Jr. hit the big leagues. He decided his number would be 24. Of course. Why not? For baseball fans the number 24 occupies special significance.
Another great player also wore number 24. He too was a center fielder. He too punched home runs like clock-work. He too possessed speed and skills like few others before or since. He too was referred to as the Kid — “The Say Hey Kid.” His name was Willy Mays.
It seems to make sense. A boy grows up playing America’s game. He watches his baseball heroes and dreams of following in their cleats. In his teen years, his parents and coaches know something special is about to explode. And in his mind he longs for the day he might wear his favorite player’s number and play the game like his favorite player plays.
This young man, Ken Griffey, Jr., the son of a major league ballplayer, comes to the major leagues at the tender age of, what was it, 18 or 19? He instantly thrills the baseball world. Sooner or later, it had to happen — the reporters ask him the same question I’ve been wondering about, “Hey, Kid, why did you pick number 24?”
Naturally, everyone figured they knew the answer. We all expected him to say, “It’s in honor of Willy Mays.” But then came the unexpected. Ken Griffey, Jr. said, “Because Rickey Henderson wore number 24, of course.”