Seattle fans reflect on Griffey's legacy
He was one of the best ever to put on a Major League Baseball uniform, and he electrified crowds in Seattle for 13 seasons. On Saturday night, 46,027 of his biggest fans came to Safeco Field as Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame.
The author of 630 career home runs, countless diving catches and the recipient of 10 Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards was honored in a pre-game ceremony before Saturday's Mariners-Brewers game. Griffey joins Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson in the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Not only will Griffey forever be remembered as one of the game's greats, he will always be revered by Mariners fans.
Mo Padilla grew up in Marysville, Wash., and now lives at Travis Air Force Base in California, but still made the trip back to Seattle to see his childhood hero honored. "He was 'The Kid,'" Padilla said. "Every kid who grew up in Washington state, No. 24, that was the number. That was the deal. Everybody wanted to be Ken Griffey Jr. That was it. He's the Michael Jordan of baseball to us."
To Lindsay Bosch, who was raised in Kent, Wash., Griffey is simply the best Seattle sports has ever seen. "He was probably the greatest athlete in the city of Seattle to ever come through," Bosch said. "Back when he came up, we really weren't all that good, and he just really gave everybody hope and really made you enjoy the game."
With all living members of the Mariners Hall of Fame -- and Marilyn Niehaus, wife of the late Dave Niehaus -- seated in front of home plate, Griffey entered the field from the center-field gate, walking across a "24" etched into the center-field grass to a thunderous ovation. It was a night to honor No. 24 that came 24 years after his 1989 debut in MLB.
"It was beautiful," Padilla said. "Just seeing him walk out, stopping on the '24,' putting his arms out, everybody screaming out 'Griffey,' it was the greatest thing. I'm just happy I could be here today."
Even after spending nine seasons in Cincinnati and Chicago, Griffey will always be Seattle's favorite son, bookending his career with 13 of the most electric seasons of baseball Mariners fans have ever seen.
"It was great when he came back," said Mike Hufschmid of Puyallup, Wash. "You could see the city really come together for him. It just showed how much he meant to the city of Seattle."
As both teams, along with members of the Mariners Hall of Fame, former teammates, and a sold-out Safeco Field crowd looked on with rapt attention, Griffey spoke for 24 minutes, recounting stories and thanking numerous people. It was an unscripted speech that he handled much the same way he played the game for 22 seasons -- with grace and class.
Myles Edgar came all the way from Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, but he said it was worth every mile. "It was incredible," Edgar said. "Not being from the area, I still teared up too. It was pretty special. I was really glad to be here."
Griffey ended his speech simply. As he stepped away from the podium, he waved to the crowd and said, "I just want to say thank you."
But really it was everybody else that came to say thank you.