With Aaron Judge breaking the American League home run record this season, jacking 62 bombs, conversations about the greatest home run hitters of all time were rampant on social media.
MLB legend Ken Griffey Jr. definitely figures into any debate about MLB’s Mt. Rushmore of sluggers and players in MLB history. The Kid joined “The Pivot Podcast” for a rare in-depth conversation as he took on questions about his Hall of Fame career and much more in a new episode that debuted this week.
Kicking off the episode alongside former NFL stars and the show’s co-hosts Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder, Griffey went deep on the historic feat he and his father, Ken Griffey Sr., accomplished in not only playing together for the Seattle Mariners, but hitting back-to-back home runs. As the Hall of Famer explained, watching his dad from an early age gave him a leg up in the beginning of his career.
“He was my teammate at the ballpark, and he was my dad at home,” said Griffey. “I learned a lot about hitting and being a pro just by watching him. People can tell you things, but I got to see him doing it batting right in front of me. … When we went back to back I was a 20-year-old still learning the game, but he was a 40-year-old who understood the history. I didn’t understand it until 18 years later when I passed Frank Robinson in home runs.”
Ken Griffey Sr. Recalls Hitting Back-To-Back Homers With Junior
“If you’re in a household with pro athletes, you hear things earlier than most kids,” KGJ continued. “I knew what it took to be a big league ballplayer at age 14.”
Griffey also made sure to recognize the contribution his mother Alberta made in helping him realize his own dream, while also supporting his father throughout his major league career.
“My mom is the driving force in all of this,” said Griffey. “She always said, if you start something, you can’t quit. From 1974 to 2010, there was a Griffey in the big leagues. She’s been through all of it. There have been times where she’s whistled, and I’m at home plate and she can immediately point to her chin and I know she’s telling me to keep my head in there.”
As Clark expressed his experience idolizing Griffey and other black baseball stars of his childhood, he asks his guest about the issues MLB has experienced in recent years with attracting new black stars to the sport. For Griffey, he sees two main factors related to money that have slowed the growth of the game.
The Wealth Gap In America Has Hurt the Game
“It’s money,” said Griffey. “Football and basketball, what do you need? For baseball you need at least a glove, a hat and a bat. That’s hundreds of dollars and you’re still buying new stuff even in high school. Also, in football and basketball, after you get drafted, you go to the league. In baseball, you’re in the minor leagues. If you’re talking about black families trying to change their generational wealth, where are you gonna go? I’m sticking them in basketball, until baseball comes around and figures out how they can help the kids who really want to play.”
KGJ Is No Stranger To Challenging Home Run Records
Having hit 630 home runs throughout his career, including 56 in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998, Griffey took an interest in the pursuit of single-season home run history by New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. Griffey shared the conversations he’s had with Judge during his pursuit and even declared him the best player in baseball right now, while also throwing in a pitch for his Mariners in regard to Judge’s upcoming free agency.
He’s probably going to demand a contract in excess of $300M.
“I take my hat off to him,” said Griffey. “I sent him a note congratulating him and telling him to keep going. He wrote me back actually and said he’s just trying to be like me. He’s an unbelievable guy and a teammate. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with his free agency this winter. I’ll just say, there’s a nice spot in the Northwest for him. I’m not throwing anything out there, but I could probably get him a couple things. I’m making my pitch early. Right now he’s the best player in the league. He does everything. … He goes out there every day and works on his craft, and that’s fun to watch.”
Talk of home run records leads to the co-hosts pushing Griffey for his feelings on MLB’s “Steroid Era.”
“I don’t worry about it,” said Griffey. “To each his own. … When things happen and guys get busted, or don’t get busted, 25 years ago it didn’t bother me. Because at age 50 I don’t have that cloud over my head.”
Before the episode closes out, the pod squad talks to Griffey about one other record that could potentially be matched in the upcoming years. NBA superstar LeBron James has expressed publicly his desire to play alongside one or both of his teenage sons in the NBA, matching what Griffey and his father were able to accomplish. Having already explained his desire to support and root on other great athletes, Griffey shares that he’s already reached out to James and said that if he and his sons are able to reach that goal, Griffey and his father will be in the building to share in the historic moment.
“I called LeBron and I told him that when they do it, me and my dad are going to be there. … To have modern-day athletes do it, I can’t wait. I’m here calculating when it can happen. Athletes get excited about what other athletes can do. That’s just how we are.”
And the support Griffey shows for his fellow superstar athletes in every sport is another example of what makes him one of the most beloved athletes in American history. That transcending baseball star that even after Judge hit 62 the game is still searching for.
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