Ken Griffey Jr. and Marlins catcher Matt Treanor watch Griffey’s 600th career home run against Mark Henderson in the 1st inning. Photo by JOE RIMKUS JR. / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Hal McCoy: Hall of Fame is Griffey’s just reward

Ken Griffey Jr. took his rightful place in baseball’s Hall of Fame on Sunday and the three guys who didn’t vote for him should have their voting privileges revoked. Permanently.

If Griffey isn’t a Hall of Famer then they should dismantle the Cooperstown shrine brick by brick.

It is true Griffey did not perform as well as a member of the Cincinnati Reds as he did with the Seattle Mariners, but there were mitigating circumstances. He spent as much time in the athletic trainer’s room as he did on the field. Injuries sapped him.

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And there were countless times that he was on the field when he shouldn’t have been, when he was playing on one leg and still playing better than most outfielders.

When general manager Jim Bowden made the trade in 2000 to acquire Griffey from Seattle, Bowden said, “Baseball is back in Cincinnati. There will be parades in downtown Cincinnati with Griffey leading it.”

Those of us in the room scratched our heads. Baseball is back in Cincinnati? Where had it been? The 1999 Reds lost a game to the New York Mets that would have put them in the playoffs.

And it was done with a good offensive team that lacked pitching. Manager Jack McKeon was livid. While he appreciated the addition of Griffey, he said, “We don’t need more hitting. We need pitching. If we had pitching we’d be in the playoffs.”

There is no doubt that Griffey, in his prime in Seattle, was baseball’s best player — the best hitter and best center fielder.

And he did it honestly. His name never was associated with steroids or HGH or any other enhancements. He didn’t need it and he didn’t want it.

 

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It was a shame in 1998 when both Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) broke the Roger Maris/Babe Ruth (61/60) home run records, allegedly using needles and suspect supplements to bloat up their bodies.

That same year Griffey hit 56 home runs, as he had done the year before. But despite doing it the right way he was practically ignored. Fifty-six home runs? So what? Look what McGwire and Sosa did.

I’ll never forget sitting with a Chicago Cubs official in Great American Ball Park when the Cubs played the Reds. Sosa swung and missed a pitch to strike out and the guy said, “You might have hit that pitch if you didn’t have a needle in your butt.”

McGwire and Sosa will never enter the Hall of Fame without a ticket, but Griffey, a guy who always did it right, is getting his rightful due.

And he was a delight to work with. He loved to sit on a large black steamer trunk in front of his locker, his hat on backwards, and talk to the media.

But he was discerning. He had no time for fools, especially those he thought had wronged him somewhere along the line.

On the day of his press conference upon his arrival in Cincinnati, I asked a question. I’d never met him. He looked at me and said, “I checked about you with my dad (Ken Griffey Sr., one of Cincinnati’s Great Eight) and he said you’re all right. So you are all right with me.”

And we always had a great relationship. What I liked most about Griffey, other than he was a greater person than he was a player (and that’s saying a ton), is that he didn’t like talking about himself. But if you asked about his wife and family he would talk forever, especially about his kids and their athletic prowess.

There should be a Hall of Fame for outstanding human beings. Even the three guys who didn’t vote for him for baseball’s Hall of Fame would have to vote for him for that.

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