For Griffey's Legacy 99% Is Not Enough
What a shame. Three writers stole from Ken Griffey Jr. and all of baseball, the opportunity to celebrate the baseball hall of fame’s first ever, unanimous selection. Griffey was selected to baseball’s hall of fame with a record 99.3 percent – the highest percentage ever. Finding himself on only 437 of the 440 ballots cast. But it wasn’t the 100 percent we all know he deserved. Those three writers should be ashamed, and whomever they represent should be equally ashamed, for their actions cost three generations of baseball fans.
Most people would agree, that independence of thought for journalists when disseminating information is critical to arriving at truth and maintaining a well-informed public. But sports writers have a unique, albeit, powerful position above other beat writers. That pedestal is often mistaken for a liberty to do whatever one wills. The gift of presenting information to the public is not one that should be taken lightly. It should be cherished, and honored in a manner that reflects an understanding of that privilege.
Sports writers share a special stature among beat writers, because unlike reporting on other topics like weather or crime, sports writers determine how the athletes they report on are remembered. A select number of sports writers determine who is and who is not inducted in to halls of fame. That’s a lot of power. Yesterday, three shameful reporters abused that authority, electing not to join the fray when they omitted Ken Griffey Jr. “The Kid” from their ballots.
Griffey is too humble to recognize the magnitude of that vote. He’s too selfless to expose the ego and selfishness necessary to leave him off a ballot. But baseball fans young and old, know what he did for the game.
There is not a baseball fan alive, who never stood in a batters box and attempted to replicate The Kid’s patented silky smooth, swooping, left-handed swing. The swing that touched every second on an analog clock. The swing that sent baseballs screaming to the rooftops. The swing that defied all laws of physics. That swing. That swing is forever etched in our memory and it is one of many attributes that he will be remembered for.
Griffey’s infectious smile, and exhaustive work ethic made him the hottest commodity throughout the 90s. He donned the cover of magazines, video games, starred in commercials and even had an enviable shoe contract where each shoe adorned an image of his iconic swing. You couldn’t help but love his game. He hustled to every ball hit into center field en route to ten consecutive gold gloves. He sprinted around the base path, ultimately stealing 184 bases during his career. And he sent 630 baseballs over the outfield wall with an effortless swing as only he could.
For a league that has neglected to bestow the great honor of unanimous selection into its hall of fame, now more than any was the time to right those past wrongs. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Ricky Henderson, these members of Major League Baseball lore should have been honored with unanimous selections. But withholding future inductees from unanimous selection because “it’s never happened before” is insulting. Baseball fans deserve better. Journalistic integrity is not a virtue – it’s a mandate, and these three shirked that duty by failing to include Ken Griffey Jr. on their ballots. We can only hope that same mistake is not repeated when The Captain, Derek Jeter is up for his vote in a few years.
Griffey was a baseball fans baseball player. But he was also a casual fans baseball player. The Kid was baseball, born and raised on a diamond. Now his baseball legacy will rightfully end in the place it is always destined, Cooperstown.