There it is: the plaque we’ve waited over 20 years to see. This past weekend I, like so many other Griffey fans across the world, watched from home as Junior gave the speech he was predicted to give way back before the Internet, cell phones, and even Inter-league play. On Sunday we finally got to hear the speech we’ve been due for so many years.
It came as no surprise that Junior’s speech was very much family-first. He had something sweet and personal to say to everyone, even ol' Craig. Those of us who have seen him speak know the Kid is an emotional guy. It’s always touching to watch him do that “aw, shucks,” tilted head, right hand to his brow thing he does. It’s a level of humility few Hall-of-Fame-level athletes can express. He even managed to make my wife well up (which is a feat, believe me – it might happen once a year, tops).
Junior was generous with his praise of other players and his fans, even mentioning one fan by name – Rob (lucky, lucky Rob), who travelled 6000 miles to see the Kid’s induction. He gave big kudos to his friends Barry Larkin and Edgar Martinez (“He deserves to be in the Hall”), but one of my favorite moments was when he called on his longtime friend and Kingdome outfield buddy Jay Buhner. Something about that moment felt particularly special to me. Maybe having spent years collecting their cards and seeing them time and time again horsing around and giving us wacky poses – it just felt very real to me. We all need that Jay Buhner friend.
He went on to list some of the most memorable moments of his career, and most of them were his; but a lot of them weren’t: Randy Johnson’s no-hitter was mentioned as was Larkin's first grand slam and Buhner hitting for the cycle. He was celebrating other guys’ accomplishments in his freaking Hall of Fame speech. Who does that? He even spoke fondly of his short time wearing #17 for the White Sox, proud that he got to play in meaningful games every day. Griffey fans don’t like to talk about his cup of coffee in Chicago, but he made it sound like one of the best times in his life.
Junior’s speech showcased all the reasons we love Griffey. He was humble, honest, genuine, and modest throughout. And as superhuman as he may have looked so many times when wielding a bat at the plate or climbing an outfield wall, yesterday he looked relatable and human. At one point he had trouble getting through a particular sentence and had to stop and tell himself out loud, “Slow down,” like a nervous, well, Kid. We are all this man.
I didn’t cry – not once – until he put on that damn backwards cap. That got me, guys. It really did.
|And did you see his suit?|
A friend of mine was at the house as we watched the speech, and at one point when they cut to Ken, Sr. barely keeping it together, not even looking up at his son for fear of breaking down completely, I mentioned to her that he has a World Series ring and Junior doesn’t. She replied, “Yeah, but Junior got in the Hall of Fame. Which is better, really?” Touché.
I wore my dark blue Mariners jersey and a backwards cap the entire day. For the rest of the afternoon we (my friend, my wife, and I) would randomly interject “Griff-ehhhh” (similar to the way Peter Griffin said “SpongeBob” in that one episode) into every conversation possible. Moments of silence, moments of celebration – every kind of moment got a “Griff-ehhhh.” We all celebrate in our own way.
|So many Griffey guys...|
I really wanted to be in Cooperstown for the big event, but in addition to shelling out a pile of cash and travelling on multiple planes with a four-month-old, it would have required skipping my annual family camping trip which I haven’t done since it began 25 years ago (around the same time The Kid won his first Gold Glove). I settled for streaming it on my phone and airplaying it to the TV which worked beautifully. Thanks, MLB, for making it available online.
Oh, and a big shout-out to Mike Piazza. He gave a long and beautifully-assembled speech whose eloquence I admit I was not expecting. Not bad for a 62nd-rounder.
But this is what I watched for.