Cooperstown, New York is the sight of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It was designed to teach fans the history of baseball through artifacts and exhibits. It’s also the home of those who played and coached the game at the highest level. The Hall’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.” On Sunday, July 24, 2016 Cooperstown inducted its two newest members, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. Mike Piazza was enshrined as a catcher for the New York Mets. Ken Griffey Jr. was enshrined as an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners.
Mike Piazza was the 1,390th pick in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft. He is the lowest pick to make it into the Hall. He was initially drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then manager, Tommy Lasorda, drafted Piazza as a favor to his father. The saying is true, “it’s not what you know it’s who you know.” Piazza started off at first base but it didn’t work out, he even quit the minor leagues. He returned to the minors and switched to catcher. This would prove to be the second best move of his career. The best move would happen in 1998 when he was traded to the Mets. That’s when he made a name for himself as one of the best catchers of all time. In the first sporting event played after 9/11 in New York, he hit a two-run homer to beat the Atlanta Braves 3-2. He was now a New Yorker for life. Piazza would play 16 years with the Dodgers, Mets, Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, and Oakland Athletics. He hit 427 homeruns, 396 of those was as a catcher which is more than any other catcher in history. His career batting average was .308 as he collected 10 Silver Slugger Awards and appeared in 12 All-Stars. During his acceptance speech he said, “The only way I ever thought I’d be here with you is if I bought a ticket.” To the Mets fans he stated, “The eight years we spent together went by way too fast. The thing I miss most is making you cheer. No fans rock the house like Mets fans. You are passionate, loyal, intelligent and love this great game.” Piazza told his dad, “We made it dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.”
Ken Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1987 draft by the Mariners. Being the son of a major baseball player (Ken Griffey Sr.), meant high expectations. I think it’s safe to say that “The Kid” delivered in a major way. He played for 22 seasons for the Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago White Sox. He finished sixth on the all-time homerun leaderboard with 630. He has won 10 Gold Glove Awards while appearing in 13 All-Stars. He made baseball cool, by wearing his cap backwards during the homerun derbies and batting practices. He had the sweetest, easiest swing in all of baseball history which is why he was the 1997 American League MVP. “Junior” was just three votes shy of being a unanimous Hall of Fame selection. Those three should have their privileges revoked permanently and write on the board 1000 times “I should have voted for Ken Griffey Jr.” I guess I’m telling my age with that punishment. He still was voted in with the highest percentage ever at 99.32%. In his acceptance speech he thanked his dad saying, “To my dad, who taught me how to play this game, but more importantly, he taught me how to be a man, how to work hard, how to look at yourself in the mirror each and every day and not to worry about what other people are doing.” Griffey also added some insight during his speech stating, “The two misconceptions of me are I didn’t work hard and everything I did I made it look easy. Just because I made it look easy doesn’t mean it was, and you don’t become a Hall of Famer by not working day in and day out.” Finally, before putting his baseball cap on backwards for the last time he said, “I want to thank my family, my friends, the Reds, the White Sox and the Mariners for making this kid’s dream come true.”
There were 50,000 people on hand to listen and watch the two players get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Piazza and Griffey Jr. on making it to baseball’s hallowed grounds of Cooperstown.