SEATTLE – The Kid is immortal.
Ken Griffey Jr., inarguably the most beloved player in Seattle sports history, was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
“It’s huge for the city because he meant so much to Seattle, to the entire Pacific Northwest,” longtime Mariners announcer Rick Rizzs told Q13 FOX. “He was, I think, the greatest athlete to ever put on a uniform that said Seattle on it. He was one of the greatest players in the history of the game of baseball.”
Griffey was on 437 of 440 ballots - just shy of becoming the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection, but his 99.32 percent of the vote is the highest in history.
Griffey was drafted by the Mariners in 1987, and hit a home run in his first at-bat in the Kingdome 1989. He won the American League MVP in 1997 and was a 13-time All Star and four-time home run champion.
He was among the most popular players in baseball in the 1990s; even Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman seemed star-struck when asked about Griffey on Wednesday.
“Even as a kid in L.A., you knew who Ken Griffey was,” Sherman said. “He’s known worldwide.”
Griffey was in the middle of perhaps the most famous play in Mariners history, when he scored from first on an Edgar Martinez double in the Kingdome in the11th inning in Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series, sending the Mariners to the ALCS for the first time in franchise history.
Two years later, he had his best season when he hit .304 with 56 homers and 147 RBI.
It wasn’t much later that Seattle’s love affair with Griffey hit the skids. In 1999, Griffey began talking about moving closer to relatives in his hometown of Cincinnati, and in February 200 he was traded to the Reds, where he signed a nine-year contract.
Things were never quite the same for Griffey after that trade. His numbers fell off, and he never meshed with Reds fans quite like he did in Seattle. He later went on to have a sting with the Chicago White Sox in 2008, but eventually finished his career with one last stretch with the Mariners.
Griffey ended his career with 630 home runs, sixth on the all-time list.
“He’s ours because he became a Hall of Famer right here,” Rizzs said. “You know his first game of the big leagues, he put on a Mariner cap.”
It was Martinez's seventh time on the Hall of Fame ballot. Players are dropped if they haven't been voted in after 10 years.
"For me, I am really encouraged, and thankful, in the increase of votes," he said. "I certainly didn’t expect to be elected today, but it is always a little disappointing when it becomes official.
"Although, I’m so happy for Ken that makes it a little easier."