The Griffeys: Major-League Baseball's First Father-and-Son Pair

Ebony, September 1989 | Go to article overview

The Griffeys: Major-League Baseball's First Father-and-Son Pair


THE GRIFFEYS: Major-League Baseball's First Father-and-Son Pair

IT'S a typical father's fantasy: a son is at bat with a chance to become a hero. With a man on base, all he needs is a hit. The pitch is thrown and he connects, sending the ball into left field. His hit drives in the winning run, and his team goes on to win the game.

What may be a common sports fantasy for many fathers became a proud moment for Ken Griffey at the beginning of this baseball season. Having just finished a grueling road-game series with the Cincinnati Reds, Griffey enjoyed a rare night off at Chicago's Comiskey Park as he watched his son, Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners, help defeat the Chicago White Sox. For the Griffeys, baseball is a family affair. They are the first father-and-son duo to play in the major leagues at the same time.

At 39, Griffey is a seasoned veteran with the Reds, capping a brilliant career as an all-around player. At 19, Griffey Jr. is the Mariners' rookie center fielder, a young player whose sweet swing suggests ample potential as a pro player. Both men worked hard to make their ballclubs, and both love the game. But underneath the hype and honors that come with major-league play, one fact remains clear: they are still father and son. "He's still 1 9," says the father of the son. "When he's out between the white lines, he's playing it as a game, and he's playing it hard. But when he comes home, he's 19." Says the son of the father: "I basically go out and have fun. If he [Griffey Sr.] says something that I can relate to, then we'll talk. If not, I'll say, 'Yeah, yeah,' and he'll say, 'I know you're not listening.' It's a father-son thing."

Given the Griffeys' 20-year age difference and the fierce competition for a major-league player's slot, the chance of making it into the sport's history books as "a father-son thing" seemed like a long shot at best. "It took me four-and-a-half years to make the big leagues," Griffey Sr. says. "When he [Griffey Jr.] signed, I thought it would take that long for him. I thought I would be coaching or a hitting instructor somewhere by then."

The elder Griffey, a high school football and track star in Donora, Pa., was drafted by the Reds in 1969. After four years in the minor leagues, he became a member of what would become Cincinnati's famed "Big REd Machine" teams, holding a respectable .317 batting average and playing on two world championship teams in 1975 and 1976.

In the meantime, he also had to raise a family, juggling his baseball career with the needs of his wife, Alberta, and their two sons, Ken Jr. and Craig. "The days in the minor league were the best times because that's when I developed a closeness with them [his sons]," Griffey says. "I was always with them. I had them all the time." Ironically, Griffey didn't see Ken Jr. develop as a young baseball player. A trade in 1981 sent Griffey to the New York Yankees and away from his son's Little League games. …

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