COOPERSTOWN, PA—Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza joined others as the best of baseball after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 24.
The two, became a part of history, not just because of their induction, but also because of how they got there.
Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever to be inducted. Piazza was a 62nd-round pick the following year – No. 1,390 – is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.
Griffey played 22 fantastic seasons in the majors with the Mariners, Reds, and White Sox and was selected to the hall with a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast.
He finished his career with 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He was a 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Winner, recipient of the American League MVP in 1997, and winner of seven Silver Slugger Awards.
“I stand up here humbled and overwhelmed,” said Griffey in his acceptance speech. “I can’t describe how it feels.”
“Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life,” said Griffey said before putting a baseball cap on backward, a staple of his throughout his career.
“I’m going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that’s your first team. I’m damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner,” Griffey added. Piazza had a slightly different path to the Hall.
After being drafted by Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda, a close friend of his father’s, Piazza struggled to find his identity in the minors. He briefly quit the game, but came back and switched positions from first base to catcher, the position that brought him fame.
Piazza played 16 storied seasons with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Athletics and hit a total 427 home runs, including a major record 396 as a catcher. He finished as a 12-time All-Star, won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league’s MVP voting four times.
What separated Piazza as a hitting catcher was his .308 career batting average, and his six seasons of at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average. All other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons.
One of Piazza’s greatest moments of his career came when he hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium to give the Mets a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“To witness the darkest of evil of the human heart…will be forever burned in my soul,” said Piazza in his acceptance speech. “But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing. Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on September 21, but the true praise belongs to the police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice.”
Griffey’s and Piazza’s legacy will now live on in the Hall of Fame for the rest of time.