Long run of Griffeys comes to an end
For first time since July 2, 1974, no Griffey in Major Leagues
SEATTLE -- A 36-year streak ended on Thursday.
The obscure run ended when the Mariners removed Ken Griffey Jr. from their 40-man roster, the first time since July 2, 1974, that a player named Ken Griffey was not part of a Major League roster -- active or on the disabled list.
"Thirty-six years? Wow, that's a long time," Ken Griffey Sr. said during a telephone interview from the Dayton Dragons' clubhouse. "I mean, I hadn't even thought about that. But it's a long time."
The Mariners' latest roster move came one day after Junior announced the end of his 21-year, two-month MLB career, a career so good that he surely will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection and head the Class of 2016.
Senior, the Dragons' batting coach, said the only thing that surprised him about his son's retirement was the timing.
"I thought it would be sooner," he said.
How did he find out?
"I called him yesterday and he said he was in his car driving home from Seattle," the senior Griffey said. "He seemed very happy with his decision. He sounded pretty good when I talked to him.
"I was glad to hear that he seemed happy about it. That was the main thing for me. I think it's kind of a relief for him for [his career] to be over."
Senior Griffey hesitated for a couple of seconds when asked about his son's career.
"Where do you start?" he said. "It was just a heck of a career -- 630 home runs, 13-time All-Star, 10 straight Gold Gloves ... a great career."
Senior said he knew his namesake son would be a good player, but perhaps not as good as he became.
"I saw it coming when he was 14; I was playing for the Yankees, and I couldn't strike him out in batting practice, no matter how hard I tried," he laughed. "Up until then, I could."
Griffey Sr., who split the 1973 season between Triple-A Indianapolis and Cincinnati, reached the big leagues for good midway through the '74 season. He played for the Reds twice, Yankees, Braves and Mariners before playing his final game on May 31, 1991 -- exactly 19 years before Junior played his final game.
Griffeys by the numbers
"That's quite a coincidence, isn't it?" Senior said.
The 36 years of Griffeys were impressive, to say the least.
Chosen as the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player -- Senior in 1980 and Junior in '92.
Senior played on three World Series championship teams, but Junior struck out.
Selected to 16 All-Star Games between 1976 and 2007, Junior leading with 13.
Junior Griffey was the AL MVP in 1997; Senior Griffey finished second in the NL batting race in 1976.
Besides their individual achievements, the Griffeys became the first father-son tandem to play on the same Major League team, being part of the Mariners' outfield for the first time on Aug. 31, 1990, against the Royals.
They added more history two weeks later by hitting back-to-back home runs against Angels right-hander Kirk McCaskill in Anaheim.
That would be their final hurrah together.
The following Spring Training, while on his way to have a physical, Senior was involved in a car accident and sustained a whiplash injury when hit from behind. He missed the early part of camp, but recovered in time to make the 25-man Opening Day roster.
He batted .282 in 33 games, but the injuries suffered in the car accident eventually caused his legs to go numb, and he quietly retired at age 41.
Junior, who will be 41 on Nov. 21, also left quietly -- just as he said he would.
Asked during camp in Peoria, Ariz., last March how he would handle his retirement announcement, Griffey said it would come via a press release to the media from the Mariners organization.
Sure enough, that's how it came down.
While he remained quiet on Thursday, Griffey Jr.'s longtime Cincinnati-based agent, Brian Goldberg, said he talked to Junior earlier in the day.
"He's doing well and is at peace with his decision," Goldberg said.
"This is an all-positive situation going forward," he added, "but I don't want to say too much right now. I just want Junior's statement to set in for a few days."
Griffey Jr. has been in touch with several of his teammates via cell phone calls or text messages since his departure on Wednesday, and he is expected to return to Seattle later in the season.
It might come as soon as the weekend of June 18-20, when the Reds are in Seattle for a three-game Interleague series.
As for MLB life without a Griffey, that might not last forever.
"I have a couple of grandkids coming up," Senior Griffey said. "Nathaniel Griffey, the 13-year-old son of Craig Griffey, and Cameron, the 11-year-old son of daughter Lathesia Lockridge.
"Nathaniel calls himself 'Nathan Griffey Jr.,' for his uncle," Senior laughed.
Meanwhile, reaction continued on Thursday.
Commissioner Bud Selig said in a news release: "Ken Griffey Jr. will always be remembered for his picture perfect swing, for the grace in which he fielded his position, and for the youthful enthusiasm with which he played the game. He was one of the game's greatest players and is surely deserving of a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
"Ken was and will continue to be a credit to the game and a role model for our children. I have always had great respect for him as both a player and as a young man. I wish the very best for him and his family."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.