Ken Griffey Jr.

Iconic moments from "Junior," Ken Griffey Jr. documentary on MLB Network

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Iconic moments from "Junior," Ken Griffey Jr. documentary on MLB Network

MLB Network released the documentary “Junior,” on Father’s Day, which highlighted the astounding career of Seattle phenom Ken Griffey Jr. 

The 90-minute piece followed Griffey’s career from high school to his illustrious days in Seattle and his induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.  

There were plenty of highlights from Junior. Griffey’s selection by the Mariners as the first-overall pick in 1987, reaching the majors two years later at age 19 and becoming an All-Star for the first time at 20, and of course Griffey Jr. and Sr. becoming the first father-son duo in MLB history on the same team. 

Here’s a look at some of our favorite moments from Junior: 

Griffey's dog-pile moment

Before Damian Lillard hit the “bad shot,” waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder and was subsequently dog-piled by his Trail Blazers teammates, Ken Griffey Jr. was the Pacific Northwest’s original dog-pile hero. 

In the 1995 American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, Griffey hit five home runs in five games as the Ms rallied from an 0-2 deficit to take the series. Junior scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning on an Edgar Martinez double. 

Then, the dog-pile ensued at home plate and Griffey flashed a huge smile. 

The Griffeys on the same team

Major League Baseball is filled with prodigious bloodlines. In 1990, Ken Griffey Jr. was 20 and coming off his first All-Star appearance. His dad, Ken Griffey Sr. was 41 and in his second stint with the Reds. 

That August, Griffey Sr. was given 15 minutes to decide whether he wanted to retire, accept his release or be placed on the Reds disabled list. He decided to retire, then unretire and sign with the Mariners, on the same team as his son. 

One of the coolest father-son moments occurred on Sept. 14, 1990 when Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. hit back-to-back home runs in a game against the California Angles. 

Hitting 500th home run with dad in the crowd

Another sentimental father son moment came on June 20, 2004. Junior delivered the ultimate Father’s Day gift to Griffey Sr. when he knocked his 500th career home run over the right fence at Busch Stadium. 

Then there was that time Junior was grounded and had his car keys taken away by Senior for stealing a fly out while Senior was in left field and Junior was in center. 

Junior’s beef with the Yankees

Ken Griffey Jr. has long hated the New York Yankees. In “Junior,” it was finally revealed where Griffey Jr.’s grudge against the Yankees actually came from. 

In 1983, Junior detailed an incident with then-Yankees owner George Steinbrenner while visiting his father before a game. 

“I came up to visit my dad and it was just me and him. I got to the ballpark early and I'm sitting in the dugout and the security guard comes over and says, '[Then-Yankees owner George Steinbrenner] doesn't want anyone in the dugout.' My dad was like, 'What? He's my son.' So, he goes, 'Alright, hey go in my locker. But before you go, look at third base.' It's Craig Nettles' son taking ground balls at third base,” Griffey Jr. said.

“And at that time, my dad was 38 years old, he's like, 'I ain't fighting this no more. I got somebody a little younger. And a little bit better.’

“There’s certain things a dad drills into you as a kid that just sticks with you. And [to beat the Yankees] was one of them.” 

Enshrined in Cooperstown

Griffey Jr. was known for more than his 630 home runs. His smile, contagious personality, smooth swing, insane catches and explosiveness are also why people call him the G.O.A.T, including LeBron James. 

Junior was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2016.

Ken Griffey Jr. had a very special reason for iconic backwards cap

Ken Griffey Jr. had a very special reason for iconic backwards cap

Ken Griffey Jr. is a Seattle sports icon. 

He's arguably the greatest five-tool player to ever hit the diamond and claims ownership to the sweetest swing in the history of baseball. 

"The Kid"  also created an iconic sports look with his iconic backwards cap. 

https://youtu.be/yv4ASTL9zO4?t=33

In the 90s, millions of kids started to wear their caps backwards just to be like Junior. 

But Junior wasn't trying to be some rebellious trendsetter. Rather, like fans were trying to be like him, he was just trying to be like his hero: His dad. 

Griffey told the story in the latest episode of the Sports Business Radio Podcast:

I wear my hat backwards because my dad had a 'fro and I wanted to wear his hat. If I put his hat on at age six, and he's got an eight and a half (hat size) and I got like a little five, it's not really gonna stay on my head. So I just turned it around because I just wanted to wear my dad's hat.  - Ken Griffey Jr. on his iconic look

"It wasn't like I was trying to be different," said Griffey. "I just wanted to wear my dad's hat. Even now, when I put on my hat, I put it on backwards."

We have all been in Griffey's shoes, or hat in this case, trying to emulate our parents, grandparents, or family members. Trying to be just like the people we look up to. 

But unlike Griffey, not all of us made a brand in the process. 

Griffey became the backwards cap. It was his defining look. A look that he continues to rock to this day.

You talk about being defiant. I belong to a country club here, and I got a letter in the mail that says... 'Keep Forward,' meaning you bill facing forward. So I built hats and it said 'Keep Forward' on the back of it so when I turned it around it said 'Keep Forward.' And I wore it. That's who I am. You're not gonna let me wear my hat backwards? It's not like I'm a slob. It's not like my shirt is untucked. This is who I am." - Griffey on his backwards cap

As Griffey said, the backwards cap is "who I am." But who is Griffey, really? Even at age 50, he is still just a six-year-old kid trying to be like his dad. 
 

Be sure to check out Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football

Oh, that memory of Ken Griffey Jr. sticking his head out of that pile at home plate

Oh, that memory of Ken Griffey Jr. sticking his head out of that pile at home plate

As Ken Griffey Jr. takes his rightful place in baseball's Hall of Fame this weekend, I can't help but think back to the Seattle Mariners' 1995 season -- the year when the entire Pacific Northwest went bonkers for the Mariners.

Yes. even Portland set aside its usual distaste for all things Seattle to pull for a team that just wouldn't quit. It was a team that emerged from years of mediocrity to capture the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere. It was a lovable bunch on the field, playing with joy and abandon, constructing big comebacks for miracle late-season wins.

But it wasn't very lovable in their clubhouse, I can tell you. I was dispatched by The Oregonian to cover the M's brilliant late-season run that August and September, the most time I've ever spent following a big-league team around. Griffey was, at least at that time, difficult to cover. He could be temperamental and hard to approach. Randy Johnson, who would win the Cy Young Award that year after going an overpowering 18-2, was intimidating and impossible to approach. But the rest were easy to talk with and cooperative.

On Aug. 24 of that season the Mariners were 11 1/2 games behind the division-leading California Angels and a game under the .500 mark. Griffey had been out of the lineup with a broken wrist through much of the season and even the torrid hitting of Edgar Martinez couldn't keep Seattle close. But the team caught fire and the emotion began to build, the way it can do in baseball, where the season-long soap operas can grow in intensity with each game.

Eventually, the M's caught the Angels and faced them in a one-game playoff in the ancient Kingdome, where Seattle -- behind Johnson -- pummeled California 9-1.

Next up, the playoffs -- a foreign place for the Mariner franchise -- and a battle with the New York Yankees. Seattle Manager Lou Piniella vs. one of his former teams. The Yanks handled Mariner pitching with ease in the first two games in Yankee Stadium, winning 9-6 and 7-5. About all I remember from covering those games was talking to Jay Buhner afterward about New York fans throwing batteries at him in right field.

Things turned around in Seattle, though, as Mariner fans turned the Kingdome into a cauldron of noise. Let's cut to the chase, the best-of-five series went to a fifth game and it turned into an incredible battle. The Yankees, behind David Cone, held a 4-2 lead before the Mariners tied it in the eighth. Then, in the ninth, New York mounted a rally -- getting two on with none out,.

But then the emotion of the game went from 10 out of 10 to about 15 out of 10. Out of the Seattle bullpen came Johnson, the Big Unit, charging to the mound as if he owned it. He had rested just one day since winning Game 3 but was ready for this challenge. He fanned Wade Boggs and got Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill on popups.

And in my estimation, there's never been a louder sports arena anywhere than the Kingdome was on that night -- a combination of fan loyalty, panic and hope. In the pressbox, I couldn't hear the person next to me even though he was screaming at me. I was getting hand signs from a baseball-scout friend of mine sitting down the third-base line, who was wide-eyed as he signaled me that Johnson was hitting near 100 on the radar gun on one day's rest.

I will admit, for the first time, in that cement-mixer of a domed stadium with all that excitement, the hair on the back of my neck was standing at attention. This was craziness.

The Mariners couldn't score in the bottom of the ninth and then Johnson struck out the side in the 10th. Again the M's failed to score in their half of the inning. By this time, I'm pretty sure everyone in that stadium was dealing with a massive stress headache.

The Yankees finally broke through against Johnson in the 11th, getting a run to take a 5-4 lead. At that point, though, nobody in that stadium figured the home team as being finished. It just wasn't that type of season and not that type of team.

Joey Cora beat out a bunt single (barely) to lead off the bottom of the 11th and Griffey slammed a hard grounder into right-center field for a single to move Cora to third. Martinez followed -- and you probably know this part -- with a line-drive double down the left-field line. Cora scored easily, of course, to tie the game and Griffey -- not fast but a brilliant baserunner -- glided all the way from first to slide safely into home with the winning run.

You can watch that entire bottom of the 11th here.

It was an amazing finish and the lasting image is Griffey's head poking out of the big pigpile at the plate with a broad smile on his face as the entire Pacific Northwest celebrated another Mariner comeback. That moment was and IS STILL magic.

For me, Griffey's successful dash to the plate was a symbol of his career -- daring, bold, confident, skillful and smart. He was a great fielder, terrific home-run hitter and could seemingly do whatever was necessary to win games.

When I think about the Seattle Mariners, I think of Griffey -- the face of the franchise for so many years. And I always see that face, poking its way out of the bottom of the pile, flashing that magnetic smile of success.

Congrats, Junior. And thanks for the memories.