Junior named Living Legend
Senior presents son with Louisville Slugger honor
BY C. RAY HALL | THE (LOUISVILLE) COURIER-JOURNAL
- Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who's on a fast track to baseball's Hall of Fame, was in town Friday night to pick up a first-of-a-kind honor.
He received the first Living Legend award from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
Griffey was introduced by his father, Ken Sr., who also presented him with the award's gold ring. Together, the Griffeys have 4,638 hits in the big leagues.
But an inanimate object got the first hit Friday night. As Griffey Sr. mounted the small stage, a support pole holding a black drape tipped over, conking him on the back of the head.
"Junior said that's going to show up on Funniest Videos," he said before he introduced his son to a crowd of about 250 at the Louisville Slugger Museum.
Griffey Jr. has 593 home runs in his 19-year career with Seattle and Cincinnati. Senior hit .296 with 2,048 hits in 19 years.
"You act like your mom," Senior said. "But you play like your dad."
When it was his turn to speak, Junior said, "Sometimes I act like Dad and play like Mom."
Anne Jewell, the executive director of the museum and bat factory, called Griffey "a heck of a ballplayer." But it takes more to be a Living Legend, she noted, as she cited Griffey's off-the-field work, especially with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which fulfills the wishes of terminally ill children.
She cited the time Griffey Jr. visited a young patient in the last hours of his life, talking to him for two hours in his hospital bed.
Griffey spoke three minutes Friday, acknowledging he was nervous and "lost for words" over the honor.
Afterward, Griffey Sr. told the media about the time he recognized his son could become some version of a living legend. Griffey Sr. is probably best remembered as a Cincinnati Red but was playing for New York then, and he often threw batting practice to his son in Yankee Stadium.
"He was 13 or 14 years old," Griffey Sr. said. "I threw everything but the kitchen sink. I couldn't strike him out. I would throw pitches to him I didn't think anybody could hit. It was just the adjustments that he learned how to make - the mental attitude. ... When he decided he wanted to play baseball as a profession, I knew there was nothing going to stop him."
Griffey Jr. said his father never pressured him to be anything, or anyone, but himself.
"I was brought up in a household where your dad let you be you," he said. "He didn't put any pressure on us as kids. He just let us go out there and have fun and be kids.
"He didn't use the Big Red Machine as motivation. ... He said, 'You're my son. I just want you to be a kid, so go out there and have fun. You're not Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench. You're my son. That's all I care about and that's all I want you to be. I don't want you to imitate anybody. Go out there with your own style.' "
Someone asked his father about the proudest he felt watching his son play.
"I have never worried about his home runs, average or watching him play in the outfield," he said. "All the spectacular catches he's made out there, all the hits, everything combined, he's just been himself. I've been more proud of him for that."
Griffey Jr. turns 38 in 10 days. His father played until he was 41 and left the game sooner than he intended because of a car accident in spring training. Although his father quipped, "In 15 minutes you'll be 40," Griffey Jr. said he doesn't see retirement in his near future.