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McGriff's quiet consistency led to gaudy numbers

First baseman paced AL and NL in homers but fell seven short of 500
MLB.com

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Fred McGriff.

McGriff was one of baseball's most consistent home run hitters for much of his 19-year Major League career, bringing his powerful bat to six different teams -- the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs and Dodgers -- from 1986-2004. The well-traveled first baseman made five All-Star teams and led both leagues in home runs, doing so in the AL with Toronto in '89 (36) and in the NL with the Padres in '92 (35).

Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Fred McGriff.

McGriff was one of baseball's most consistent home run hitters for much of his 19-year Major League career, bringing his powerful bat to six different teams -- the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays, Cubs and Dodgers -- from 1986-2004. The well-traveled first baseman made five All-Star teams and led both leagues in home runs, doing so in the AL with Toronto in '89 (36) and in the NL with the Padres in '92 (35).

He entered the professional ranks with the Yankees as a ninth-round pick in the '81 Draft. Despite his status as one of New York's up-and-coming prospects, his path to the big leagues was blocked by first baseman Don Mattingly, and he was dealt to the Blue Jays in '82. He reached the big leagues with a three-game stint in May 1986, then became a regular contributor in '87.

Video: UTD@BRV: Fred McGriff Interview

McGriff broke out with a 34-home run campaign in '88, his first of seven consecutive seasons with 30 or more home runs. He helped Toronto win the AL East in '89, but the club ultimately lost to the A's in the AL Championship Series.

McGriff was then traded to the Padres prior to the 1990 season. It was in San Diego where he made his first All-Star appearance, leading the NL with 35 home runs in '92, three years after he accomplished the feat in the AL.

After two-plus seasons in San Diego, McGriff was dealt before the Trade Deadline in '93 to the Braves, finishing the year with a career-high 37 home runs between the two teams. McGriff would continue his All-Star production in Atlanta with three more appearances in the Midsummer Classic. McGriff's tenure with the Braves featured some of his most successful teams, as he contributed to four playoff runs, including two trips to the World Series, which the Braves won in '95. Atlanta returned to the World Series in '96, and McGriff performed well, hitting .300 with two homers and six RBIs, but the team lost to the Yankees in six games.

Video: MLB Network debates Fred McGriff's HOF chance in 2018

McGriff wrapped his career with stints playing for the Devil Rays (1998-2001, 2004), Cubs (2001-02) and Dodgers (2003). He made his final All-Star appearance with his hometown Devil Rays in 2000 and reached 30 home runs for the last time with the Cubs in '02.

McGriff retired before the '05 season, finishing seven home runs shy of 500 and tied with baseball legend Lou Gehrig. He's one of only two players (along with Gary Sheffield) to have a 30-plus home run season with five different teams and left behind quite the postseason resume, slugging at least .600 in six different postseason series.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.