Sports

Griffey, Piazza officially solidify place in baseball immortality

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Mike Piazza, left, and Ken Griffey Jr. hold their plaques after an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Mike Piazza, left, and Ken Griffey Jr. hold their plaques after an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Associated Press

Two players who began their careers at opposite ends of the spectrum nearly three decades ago ended up in the same place on Sunday – with their names etched on plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, the culmination of their long journeys was tinged with tears all around.

The two became a piece of history on their special day. Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever inducted. Piazza, a 62nd-round pick the next year – No. 1,390 – is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.

Griffey played 22 big-league seasons with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox and was selected on a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast, an affirmation of sorts for his clean performance during baseball’s so-called Steroids Era.

A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997, drove in at least 100 runs in eight seasons, and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.

Griffey, who fell just three votes shy of being the first unanimous selection, hit 417 of his 630 homers and won all 10 of his Gold Gloves with the Seattle Mariners. He played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners and led them to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

“Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life,” Griffey said, punctuating the end of his speech by putting a baseball cap on backward as he did throughout his career. “I’m going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that’s your first team. I’m damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner.”

Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Piazza played 16 years with them, the Marlins, Mets, Padres and A’s. He hit 427 home runs, including a major league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league’s MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza, a .308 career hitter, posted six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average (all other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons).

Though the Dodgers gave him his start, Piazza found a home in New York when he was traded to the Mets in May 1998.

Three years later, he became a hero to the hometown fans with perhaps the most notable home run of his career. His two-run shot in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium lifted the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Piazza paid tribute to that moment.

“To witness the darkest evil of the human heart … will be forever burned in my soul,” Piazza said. “But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing.

“Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on Sept. 21st, but the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice.”

CAREER STATISTICS (REGULAR SEASON)

Ken Griffey Jr.

Year, Team

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

AVG

1989, Sea

455

61

120

16

61

.264

1990, Sea

597

91

179

22

80

.300

1991, Sea

548

76

179

22

100

.327

1992, Sea

565

83

174

27

103

.308

1993, Sea

582

113

180

45

109

.309

1994, Sea

433

94

140

40

90

.323

1995, Sea

260

52

67

17

42

.258

1996, Sea

545

125

165

49

140

.303

1997, Sea

608

125

185

56

147

.304

1998, Sea

633

120

180

56

146

.284

1999, Sea

606

123

173

48

134

.285

2000, Cin

520

100

141

40

118

.271

2001, Cin

364

57

104

22

65

.286

2002, Cin

197

17

52

8

23

.264

2003, Cin

166

34

41

13

26

.247

2004, Cin

300

49

76

20

60

.253

2005, Cin

491

85

148

35

92

.301

2006, Cin

428

62

108

27

72

.252

2007, Cin

528

78

146

30

93

.277

2008, Cin-ChW

490

67

122

18

71

.249

2009, Sea

387

44

83

19

57

.214

2010, Sea

98

6

18

0

7

.184

Totals

9801

1662

2781

630

1836

.284

Mike Piazza

Year, Team

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

Avg

1992, LA

69

5

16

1

7

.232

1993, LA

547

81

174

35

112

.318

1994, LA

405

64

129

24

92

.319

1995, LA

434

82

150

32

93

.346

1996, LA

547

87

184

36

105

.336

1997, LA

556

104

201

40

124

.362

1998, LA-Fla-NYM

560

88

184

32

111

.329

1999, NYM

534

100

162

40

124

.303

2000, NYM

482

90

156

38

113

.324

2001, NYM

503

81

151

36

94

.300

2002, NYM

478

69

134

33

98

.280

2003, NYM

234

37

67

11

34

.286

2004, NYM

455

47

121

20

54

.266

2005, NYM

398

41

100

19

62

.251

2006, SD

399

39

113

22

68

.283

2007, Oak

309

33

85

8

44

.275

Totals

6911

1048

2127

427

1335

.308

Compiled by Noel Harris

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