Monday, July 25, 2016

The Other Griffey

The 1994 Jacksonville Suns
MIKE PIAZZA teared up during his National Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech yesterday.

Ken Griffey Jr., who followed him to the podium, cried early and often during his address. In the audience, Ken Griffey Sr. wept openly while his elder son talked about a lifetime lived among big league ballplayers, first surrounded by his father's teammates on the mid-1970s Cincinnati Reds team known as the Big Red Machine and later with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, then in his own right.

One person who the camera did not catch crying, even as his more famous brother acknowledged him, was Craig Griffey, a 42nd round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners who never made it to the big leagues.

Genetics can be capricious and cruel. For every Joe, Dom and Vince DiMaggio, or Ken and Bob Forsch or Phil and Joe Niekro, baseball history is replete with would-be rival siblings, only one of whom was kissed by that biochemical fate that makes somebody a star.

Admission: $3
Think Tommie Aaron, younger brother of Hank, or pitcher Mike Maddux and his younger and 355-game-winning-brother, Greg,  or Larry Yount, who appeared in just a single game for the Houston Astros while little brother Robin had a Hall of Fame career with the Milwaukee Brewers.

If the question about Ken Griffey Jr. was ever nature or nurture, clearly nature has the edge as Craig Griffey -- less than two years the younger -- likely had many of the same experiences and exposures.

The numbers of late August
Craig rose no higher than AAA, having a cup of coffee at the end of his career with the Mariners' affiliate in Tacoma, the Rainiers. Three games, three at bats, one hit -- a triple. For the bulk of his career he played at the AA level, batting .212 with five homers, 108 runs batted in and 67 stolen bases, falling short of the show.

By happenstance I saw him play for the Jacksonville Suns at the end of August 1994, as the Major League Baseball strike consumed the balance of the big league season. Also watching from the stands that day, then-Mariners manager Lou Piniella. On a team that included future Seattle pitcher Derek Lowe, catcher Chris Widger and other prospects, Griffey-the-younger was hitting an inconspicuous .224.

Still, he was a professional ballplayer, which is more than most of us can say. It's certainly more than I could say.

-- Follow me on Twitter @paperboyarchive

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