On April 3, 1989, Ken Griffey Jr. made his Major League debut, going 1-for-3 with a first-inning double, hitting second against the A's on Opening Day. The Mariners drafted him No. 1 overall in 1987, and he played only 129 games in the Minors in 1987 and '88 before his
On April 3, 1989, Ken Griffey Jr. made his Major League debut, going 1-for-3 with a first-inning double, hitting second against the A's on Opening Day. The Mariners drafted him No. 1 overall in 1987, and he played only 129 games in the Minors in 1987 and '88 before his call-up. He had never played a game above Double-A.
Griffey was 19 years, 133 days old, at the time becoming the youngest position player to debut in more than 10 years (Brian Milner in 1978).
Production at a young age is a key part of Griffey’s legacy. And with the success we’ve seen lately from young players in the game, his name comes up frequently in those references. As we celebrate 30 years since his debut, here's a look at some of the milestones Griffey set along the way.
• Last year, when Washington's Juan Soto hit a home run at Yankee Stadium at 19 years, 231 days old, he became the youngest player with a regular-season home run at any iteration of Yankee Stadium since Griffey at 19 years, 190 days old on May 30, 1989. Griffey hit two home runs in that game, as did Soto on that night.
• Griffey didn’t win the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1989 -- that went to the Orioles’ Gregg Olson -- but he hit 16 home runs, at the time the third most by a teenager in a single season. It’s now fifth most, with Bryce Harper and Soto debuting and moving ahead of Griffey on that list. He had two multihomer games in that 1989 season, one of four teenagers with multiple multihomer games in a single season -- along with Harper, Soto and Mel Ott.
• When Ozzie Albies hit his second grand slam last season, he became the fifth player in the Expansion Era (since 1961) with multiple grand slams in a season at age 21 or younger. The others? Griffey, along with Adrian Beltre, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Conigliaro.
• Christian Yelich homered in four straight games to start the 2019 season, tying the all-time record. But for the most consecutive games with a home run at any point in a season, look no further than Griffey, who in 1993 tied the record of eight straight games set by Dale Long in 1956 and also tied by Don Mattingly in 1987. Griffey was just 23 years old at the time.
• Speaking of home runs, Griffey is one of only nine players with multiple 40-homer seasons before his age-25 season. He hit 45 in 1993 and 40 during a strike-shortened season in '94.
• Griffey hit homers in the regular season, but he also hit them in July, too -- during the Home Run Derby, that is. Griffey won the Home Run Derby three times -- in 1994, '98 and '99, the most Derby wins of any batter since the event began in 1985.
• And Griffey hit six homers in the postseason, all in 1995, including two in his first career postseason game in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees. At the time, he was one of four players to hit multiple homers in his postseason debut (Chipper Jones did it the same day). He’s now one of nine players to do so. When he hit six home runs that postseason, nobody had ever hit more home runs in a single postseason (the record is now eight).
• It isn’t just the home runs that made Griffey so captivating. He was an all-around player, and that included defense, too. Griffey is one of three players in Major League history with 500 home runs and 10 Gold Glove Awards, along with Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt. There are plenty of other accolades, too, from the first MVP won by a Mariners player in 1997 to 13 All-Star selections and seven Silver Sluggers.
• Griffey was induced into the Hall of Fame in 2016, receiving 99.32 percent of the vote, at the time the highest percentage from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and now second to Mariano Rivera’s 100 percent. Griffey was the first No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft to be elected to the Hall of Fame, and has since been followed by Chipper Jones and Harold Baines.
Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.