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Respecting Ken Griffey Jr.

Normally we try not to laud opposing players here at the Nation, but I couldn’t help but write a little something about one of my favorite childhood players, Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey begins a four-game swing in Philly tonight, and for him it could be a memorable one: He’s one home run away from breaking into the 600 Club. Its current members: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Sammy Sosa.

Growing up, Griffey was my second-favorite player after Cal Ripken Jr. Why? The swing. The sweet, sweet, effortless swing and that very simple pose afterward. Griffey always made it look so easy when he rocked a ball out of the park. He was a superior athlete in his prime, not only hitting homers and extra-base hits, but playing sterling center field in Seattle.

For a time, Griffey made the Mariners the chic team in baseball. I remember salivating over the M’s dark teal vest uniforms. Yeah, I was a Mariners fan, if only for Griffey.

Sadly, injuries tripped Griffey from becoming the greatest everything to ever have played baseball. It’s very likely, if healthy, he would’ve eclipsed Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs — who knows what Bonds would’ve done instead. But Griffey, healthy or not, was a magical player, and still has the ability to wow a crowd. Tonight he’ll do that in Philly. It’s very likely there’ll be close to sell-out numbers for this four-game series — sure, the Phils in first place helps quite a bit, but no doubt everyone’s clamoring to see history and see Griffey do his thing one more time.

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