Ken Griffey Jr., Tiger Woods

Griffey’s Words of Wisdom for a Young Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods’ mea culpa today called to mind something Ken Griffey Jr. told us several years ago, when Woods was not yet known as anything but a world-beating golfer.

The question had to do with passing down baseball’s code from generation to generation, but Griffey veered off course and drew Woods—who as a young professional moved into Griffey’s Orlando neighborhood—into the discussion.

They’re words of wisdom. Had Tiger payed closer attention, the clip below might never have been necessary.

When Tiger moved down (to Orlando), he’d come over and my wife would cook for him. You want to make sure that the next generation of athletes understands what’s going on. Tiger asked me a question: “How do you deal with media?” I told him, “I’m not the one you need to talk to. The person you’re going to have to talk to is Michael (Jordan), because I wear a uniform and I don’t stand out that much. I’m not 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7. Everybody knows that bald head anywhere.”

A couple of days later, that’s when he played golf with Michael and was on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I told him, “You wear street clothes to play a sport, and people are going to notice you wherever you go. Me, I’ve got a chance because they’re going to look at me and say, ‘Is that him, or isn’t it?’ Unless they’re really true baseball fans, they’re not going to know.” I told him, “I’m not going to sit there and sugarcoat things. You’re going to like some things, and dislike some things.”

The biggest thing is getting the right people by you. People you can trust all the time. It’s not easy. I’ve got the same friends from when I was 12. When I moved out to Seattle, they moved out there. When I moved to Orlando, they moved again. I’m still in Orlando, but when I went to Cincinnati, they came up to visit me—they said, “Nooooo, not gonna move there,” but that’s okay.

– Jason

Ken Griffey Jr., Rookie Etiquette

Griffey Jr. Primed for 22nd Season. He Had to Learn his Rookie Lessons Somewhere

Reports out of Seattle have Ken Griffey Jr. healthy and raring to go for his 22nd big league season. Not bad for someone they call, “Kid.”

Griffey was a natural interview target for the book, having grown up around the game and seen first-hand how the unwritten rules have changed since his dad roamed major league outfields in the 1970s.

It was clear through the conversation that Griffey wasn’t just paying lip service to the Code; he believed in it, and understood it through all its permutations.

Of particular interest were his reminiscences about his rookie season. He came into the league as a 19-year-old amid unbelievable hype, just 22 months after being selected by the Mariners with the top overall pick of the 1987 draft. Even with his pedigree, even with his draft position and even with the hype, it didn’t take long for Griffey to learn his place in the pecking order.

The following quote from Jeffrey Leonard made the book; everything else is a Web bonus:

I had Jeffrey Leonard, Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds, Dave Valle, Jim Presley, Mickey Brantley, Henry Cotto—I was around a bunch of good guys who said, “This is what we’re going to do—we’re going to show you how to play baseball. We know you know how to play, but we’re going to show you the right way to play the game.”

Jeffrey’s exact words to me were, “There’s going to be a lot of people kissing your ass. I won’t be one of them.”

He helped me at that critical time of being a teenager and not knowing. He was like, “Hey, you’re still going to sit up in the front of the bus as a rookie, but when I call you back, you’re going to come back and sit and talk to me. We’re going to go eat and talk about baseball. We’re going to the ballpark and we’re going to talk about baseball. You’re going to be right next to me all year.”

And sure enough, my locker was right next to him the whole year.

A rookie’s primary clubhouse goal, of course, is to blend into the scenery, a concept that Griffey understood as well as anyone. Still, his effervescence, personified by the backward cap that always seemed perched atop his head, appeared to actively fly in the face of Code convention.

Not so, he told us:

I grew up with what we now call old school, but I think I’m a hybrid—a kind of new school/old school. We’ve changed the game some, with the long pants and baggy uniforms, that type of stuff. You just try to make the game more fun. Some of the guys have their hats askew—you know, like me with my hat being backward.

People thought I was just trying to be different, but that’s not it. When I was a kid, I’d grab my dad’s hat. It was big, so whenever I started to run, the brim fell in front of me and I couldn’t see. But I always wanted to grab my dad’s hat, so I turned it around. I’ve been doing it since I was four.

I wasn’t trying to be different. When I finally explained it to people, they started laughing. Because, you know, when you’re a kid, what’s the one thing you want to do? You want to be just like your dad. You put on his shoes and walk around the house, you put on his pants and hold them up and walk around, and those are the things that I did—but my dad just happened to be a professional baseball player.

-Jason

Barry Larkin, Kangaroo Court, Ken Griffey Jr., Unwritten-Rules

Griffey Trade Didn’t Look So Good Early On

Yahoo Sports ranks Seattle’s trade of Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati as the “supertrade” of the 2000s.

What they don’t mention in their story is that Griffey struggled so mightily out of the gate — batting just .217 in April, and .198 on May 4 — that teammate Barry Larkin used his version of the nuclear option to try to bust his slump. A mop-wigged Larkin fined him in kangaroo court for “imitating an All-Century Player.”

(Griffey ended up with 40 homers, 118 RBIs and a .271 batting average.)

– Jason