Though the Mariners great was on a record 437 ballots, he was left off of three, meaning no player has been unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame. Griffey’s former teammate, Edgar Martinez, gained ground in the voting but fell short of election.
Ken Griffey Jr. is headed to a place for which his talent and achievement always made him seem destined, a place he was too superstitious to set foot in as a player — the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
On Wednesday, the Hall of Fame announced its 2016 class. As expected, Griffey headed the class of two players who received votes on at least the required 75 percent of the ballots submitted by voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Joining Griffey in Cooperstown for the July 24 induction will be slugging catcher Mike Piazza, who narrowly missed being voted in last year. Griffey’s former Mariners teammate, Edgar Martinez, did not receive enough votes for election.
Junior’s a hit
630 Career homers, sixth all-time
13 All-Star appearances (voted starter every time)
10 Gold Gloves won
99.3 Percentage of votes received in Hall of Fame balloting, a record
“It’s one of those things where I can’t control it,” Griffey said of being voted in. “I can control how I play, how I do things, but I can’t control what other people do for you. The waiting game was tough. To get the call is unbelievable.”
In typical Griffey fashion, he made history in the voting process. His name was on 437 of the 440 votes. The 99.3 vote percentage is the highest in Hall of Fame history, surpassing the 98.84 percent set by pitcher Tom Seaver in 1992.
“It’s a truly an honor to be elected, and to have the highest percentage is definitely a shock because I didn’t think that way,” he said. “I was just hoping — the big thing is to get into the Hall of Fame — it’s not what you got, just as long as you get in. I was really surprised to be the highest.”
There still has been no player unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame. Voters are under no obligation to make their ballots public, which means there might be no way to determine who didn’t have Griffey on their ballots. Not that he cared.
“I can’t say anything about the three that didn’t vote for me,” he said. “I can’t be upset.”
Griffey’s first step into the hallowed Hall building will be as a member. Despite playing in the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown three times during his career, he refused to enter the building out of respect for the accomplishments of those before him and his well-known superstitions.
“I’ve never set foot in the building,” he said. “I’ve never even seen the front of it. I’ve gone directly from the field to the hotel, and the hotel to the bus. The one time I wanted to go in there, I wanted to be a member of it.”
The wait will be worth it.
There was little doubt about Griffey’s induction. His baseball resume and list of accomplishments made him a lock.
Hall of Fame voting
Ken Griffey Jr. 437 (99.3), Mike Piazza 365 (83.0), Jeff Bagwell 315 (71.6), Tim Raines 307 (69.8), Trevor Hoffman 296 (67.3), Curt Schilling 230 (52.3), Roger Clemens 199 (45.2), Barry Bonds 195 (44.3), Edgar Martinez 191 (43.4), Mike Mussina 189 (43.0), Alan Trammell 180 (40.9), Lee Smith 150 (34.1), Fred McGriff 92 (20.9), Jeff Kent 73 (16.6), Larry Walker 68 (15.5), Mark McGwire 54 (12.3), Gary Sheffield 51 (11.6), Billy Wagner 46 (10.5), Sammy Sosa 31 (7.0), Jim Edmonds 11 (2.5), Nomar Garciaparra 8 (1.8), Mike Sweeney 3 (0.7), David Eckstein 2 (0.5), Jason Kendall 2 (0.5), Garret Anderson 1 (0.2), Brad Ausmus 0, Luis Castillo 0, Troy Glaus 0, Mark Grudzielanek 0, Mike Hampton 0, Mike Lowell 0, Randy Winn 0.
It’s all but certain that he will go in as a Mariner. He has indicated privately that he plans to wear a Mariners cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Both he and Piazza were asked by the Hall of Fame not to comment Wednesday.
Ken Griffey Jr. bio
Position: Center field.
Born: Nov. 21, 1969, in Donora, Pa.
Drafted: Selected by the Mariners with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 draft.
Teams: Mariners, Reds, White Sox.
Career achievements: Played 22 years in the big leagues, finishing with a .284 average, .370 on-base percentage, 2,781 hits, 630 home runs and 1,836 RBI. ... Named 1997 American League MVP (.304 BA, 56 HR, 147 RBI). ... Was a 13-time All-Star. ... Won 10 Gold Gloves. ... Named 2005 National League Comeback Player of the Year (.301 BA, 35 HR, 92 RBI). ... Hit .290 with six home runs and 11 RBI in 18 postseason games.
“We’ll discuss that in a few days,” he said.
He will be the first player in franchise history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner. Griffey’s former teammate, Randy Johnson, went in as an Arizona Diamondback last year, and announcer Dave Niehaus was inducted via the Ford C. Frick award in 2008.
Griffey’s career spanned three decades and 22 big-league seasons with three organizations — Seattle, the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox.
In 2,617 career games — the majority in a Seattle uniform — Griffey had 2,781 hits, 630 homers (sixth-most in MLB history), 1,662 runs, 1,836 RBI and a .907 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
From an honors standpoint, he appeared in 13 All-Star Games (voted a starter in all 13), earned 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards and was voted to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team at age 29. He was the unanimous American League MVP in 1997 and led the AL in homers four times (1994, 1997-99).
“He was the best player in baseball,” former Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “There is nothing he couldn’t do on a baseball field. And he did it so gracefully. Wonderful hitter that could hit for average. He could hit for power. He could drive in runs. He could steal a base. He could score from first on a double. Good RBI guy, and then at the same time you put him out there defensively, and he was as good of a center fielder as there was in baseball. Junior was one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the opportunity to manage.”
It’s easy to think about how much better the numbers could have been if Griffey had avoided the injuries that came with his fearless style of play or the debilitating effects from years playing on artificial turf.
Beyond the numbers, Griffey left an indelible mark on baseball on Seattle. After internal debate between then-owner George Argyros and the rest of the front office, the Mariners selected Griffey with the No. 1 overall pick of the 1987 draft, eschewing Argyros’ preference of Mike Harkey.
Griffey is the first player to be picked No. 1 overall to reach the Hall of Fame.
He quickly rose through the minor leagues and made his big-league debut in the 1989 season. From there, he became a phenomenon in the Northwest and in baseball, injecting a youthful energy and bringing a level of excitement that was needed for a moribund franchise.
“They just let me go out there and make the mistakes that young kids make,” Griffey said. “People didn’t see that part. They let me be a teenager and make mistakes both on and off the field and said just hey, ‘go out there and have fun.’ ”
Griffey made baseball in Seattle relevant. And the Mariners’ success in the 1995 season and the triumph over the Yankees in the playoffs helped keep baseball in Seattle and led to the construction of Safeco Field.
But it was more than on the field.
With his megawatt smile, his cap turned backward and penchant for highlight-reel plays, Griffey made baseball cool. He had a rap song and a candy bar and video game on Nintendo.
It made him the hero for a generation of fans who emulated his every move, including his trademark batting stance — upright, bat cocked and ready with a slight wiggle — while failing to replicate the flawless swing that followed and the record-setting results.
“The thing I remember about Griffey is that swing,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. “That smooth swing. If I look back now, me and my buddies would be in the backyard; I am a righty, and I would get up there lefty and just pretend.”
It wasn’t all perfect for Griffey in Seattle. He asked for and was a granted a trade to Cincinnati in 2000, which left many fans hurt and angry.
The Mariners brought him back in 2009, and he helped the team to an 85-77 record — one of three times the team has had a winning record since 2003. In 2010, he retired unexpectedly on June 2 after his playing time had decreased, and a report that he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game. Without fanfare or tribute, Griffey left Seattle and drove east, calling then-president Chuck Armstrong and letting him know his intentions.
Still, Griffey’s impact on baseball and the organization have not been forgotten.
“On behalf of everyone associated with the Seattle Mariners, congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. on his election today to the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said in a statement. “This is a great day for Mariners fans and really all baseball fans to celebrate his outstanding career and love of the game. In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Ken should be applauded, along with his teammates, for solidifying Major League Baseball in Seattle and the Northwest, and for being a wonderful family man who has given generously to local and national charitable causes, in particular helping young people.”