After 22 years in the bigs, "The Kid" has decided to hang them up. Ken Griffey Jr. was undoubtedly the baseball icon of our generation, and is one of the only players left untarnished in the steroid era. Griffey's most lasting contribution to baseball though, will be that swing. Even if Griffey, like they say in Field of Dreams, "was playing under a made up name in some tenth rate league in Carolina," you'd be able to recognize that sweet swing. He is the only player whose swing would let you know the ball was gone. A lot of players have home run swings, but Griffey's was so perfect. It left no doubt. Ken Griffey Jr. is no doubt a first ballot hall of famer, and I suppose his retirement signals the end of our youth in some way.
I give you exhibit A (after the stupid guy walks in from the concourse). Neither the London Symphony Orchestra nor the Harlem Boys Choir are as in tune as that beautiful swing. Throughout our childhood, the owner of that swing was the hero of all of us. We all wished we were able to bat lefty just so we could imitate that swing. At school, we all stocked our backpacks with those sweet Mariners pencils. We all watched SportsCenter to see what home run call Kenny Mayne would have for Griffey. And we all rocked sweet Nike high tops just like Junior Griffey.
Somewhere along the way we lost touch with our childhood idol. With injuries and an ill advised trade from Seattle, Griffey got lost in the shuffle. Then the gorilla juiceheads of the late 90s stole our attention by putting up monster home run numbers. We turned our attention from the Kid with out even giving it a second thought. Through injuries though, Griffey still managed to put up his numbers, and slowly surpassed milestone after milestone.
Though Griffey's career has waned since his trade to the Reds, you can be sure that he will be given the utmost respect when it comes to Cooperstown. He will be heralded as one of the greatest players of all time, and I think most fans would argue that they wish it was Griffey who was sitting at 756 home runs right now instead of Barry Bonds. Though he never won a world series, doesn't hold many baseball records, and was never really an outspoken guy, Ken Griffey Jr. had a profound impact on every baseball fan between ages 23 and 35 I would say. The retirement of the Kid reminds all of us that we are not getting any younger, but certainly gives us a great opportunity to look back on our childhoods and a the great career of one player.