Ken Griffey Jr. closed out one of the more memorable induction speeches in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 by pulling a cap out of the podium and putting it on backward in his trademark style.
He has returned for the annual induction ceremony the past two years. It’s part of the responsibility of being a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and something he enjoys and holds important. Besides, he gets to see friends, play a little golf, talk baseball and tell some stories.
But this year’s induction weekend will be different … in a good way.
Griffey will get to watch as one of his closest former teammates joins him in the select fraternity of the greatest players ever in Major League Baseball.
Edgar Martinez, who often batted behind in him the heart of the Mariners’ order and drove him in with a double to left to win the 1995 American League Divisional Series, will be inducted into Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Griffey will be seated on stage with the other living Hall of Famers to watch six players gain induction into their special club.
“Every year is special, but this will be different,” Griffey said. “We were together for 11 years. Any time you have a guy that played with you and that you respect that much as a player and a person, it’s going to be more special.”
During his induction weekend in 2016, Griffey mentioned on multiple occasions, including his induction speech, that Martinez was worthy of a Hall of Fame selection.
But before he could be given any credit in aiding Martinez’s surge over the past three years to reach the necessary vote total, Griffey Jr. dismissed the premise.
“He got in because he deserves to be in,” he said. “He’s arguably the greatest DH to play this game. He earned it.”
And some voters holding a designated hitter at a lower level than other players still irritates Griffey.
“He basically had the hardest job in baseball — to hit and sit,” he said. “His whole job is to hit and that’s it. If you have a bad night at the plate or a bad at-bat in a situation, you can’t go out and make up for it in the field. That’s pressure. I might go 0 for 4 in a game, but I still had a chance to help the team by making plays in the field. Players know.”
Griffey still marvels at Martinez’s ability to focus on his preparation and play to the point where everything else sort of faded away. Martinez’s forgetfulness about non-essential things to baseball was always a playful joke with teammates. Martinez would get locked into his own little baseball world. And in that world, he was one of the most dominant right-handed hitters in the game.
“I think he pays attention more than people think,” Griffey said. “You don’t do the things he’s done in the game without knowing exactly how to focus on the things that are truly important.”
That focus is a reason why Martinez often avoided the media spotlight. He wasn’t always comfortable in it and also had his daily routine, which always came first. Griffey worried that Martinez’s humble and relatively unassuming nature might be a hindrance to the Hall.
“I always hoped for the best, especially for a guy who deserved it as much as he did,” Griffey said. “Sometimes he got overshadowed by others because he was so quiet and so humble. He just wanted to put in his work every day and play the game.”
Griffey knows that Martinez has done the same level of work for induction weekend, including all the appearances and the induction speech.
“The Hall of Fame is pretty good at preparation and getting you ready for what to expect,” he said.
Martinez also has the benefit of having gone to Griffey’s induction and seeing it up close. He has an idea of how it will go.
“I noticed that with Junior, I didn’t see him much,” Martinez recalled. “He was pretty busy. But it’s helpful for me to go when he got inducted.”
Griffey spent part of that induction weekend writing his speech. Not finalizing it or polishing it, but writing it from scratch while also avoiding the Hall of Fame building.
“I was ready,” he said. “I didn’t write my speech till Friday night. I didn’t go into the Hall of Fame until I was a Hall of Famer. Three times I had been there, I never stepped foot inside. You know me. I’m very superstitious. I wanted the emotion to be real and just let it be raw.”
Martinez didn’t see Griffey write his speech on the Friday evening before Sunday’s induction, but he heard about it. He won’t replicate that process.
“I can’t do that,” he said. “I have to practice and be ready.”
Griffey’s advice was simple.
“It doesn’t have to be that long,” he said. “Thank everyone for what they’ve done for you and it goes by quick.”
Griffey’s speech was 20 minutes, which exceeded the limit of about 12 minutes asked by the Hall of Fame and the ceremony’s organizers.