Sunday marked a historic milestone for two of baseball’s best. Mike Piazza & Ken Griffey Jr. were inducted in baseball’s most prestigious team: The Baseball Hall Of Fame. The ceremony was broadcast on the MLB network, and after both inductees gave their speeches, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.
First up to be inducted was Mike Piazza. Piazza was selected in the 62nd round by the Dodgers in the 1988 amateur draft. As the 1,390th pick, only 5 other players were picked after him, making him the lowest drafted player to reach the Hall of Fame. This was his 4th attempt at getting into the Hall.
Piazza played a long and hard 16 years with 5 different teams. While with those teams he hit 427 home runs, including 396 as a catcher which is a major-league record.
Piazza was a 12 time all-star, winner of 10 Silver Slugger Awards, and finished in the top 5 in MVP voting 4 times. Mike is a graduate of Phoenixville High School, which I also graduated from. I remember running around the track during track practice and hearing the crack of the bat as Mike belted balls over the City Line Ave fence. Mike left Phoenixville and went on to play college ball in Miami then over seas until eventually got his call to the Majors.
Piazza had 6 seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average. Not many catchers can say that, in facts a catcher has only averaged those numbers 9 other times.
Mike started out his speak sounding confident and full of jokes, but it quickly turned into passion and tears about 2 mins into his speech. He broke down as he turned and looked at his fellow Hall of Famers.
“The only way I thought I would be here with you,” he said, “was if I bought a ticket.” which was followed by some laughs and applause.
He was able to keep regain his composure until he started to recalled the “darkest evil of the human heart” on 9/11, and first responders who knew they were going to die, but went forward anyway.
Piazza also struggled to hold back the tears when he started to talk about his father. He spoke to his dad, sometimes in Italian. As the split-screen showed his him and his father side by side, you could see the tears streaming down his fathers face. It was clear how much he loved his son.
“He watched every game. Cried when I cried. Was angry when I was angry. … We made it, Dad,” Piazza said. “The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.”
Next up was the Kid, Ken Griffey Jr. Unlike Piazza who started his speech talking about his long road to the major league and ended his speech talking about his father, Griffey started his by thanking everyone and went straight to his father.
“To my dad,” he said voice breaking,” 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.”
The Kid then turned his thanks to his mother, Birdie.
“The strongest woman I know, having to raise two boys and having to be mom and dad, splitting time to go to one another’s games, me and my brother,” he said. “She was our biggest fan and our biggest critic.”
Griffey made smiled as he threw in a couple jokes throughout his speech about some of his teammates and peers.
“I tell people that I’m more scared of my mom than my dad, just because she didn’t play (around),” he said. “If you don’t believe me, there are a couple of my friends here that can attest to that. She’s the only woman I know that lives in one house and runs five others.”
Griffey then turned to his wife Melissa and said:
“The first time I saw you, I knew you were going to be my wife, now it took a little longer for you to realize that I was going to be your husband, but I’m OK with that now. I love you.”
Griffey then spoke about his kids as he singled out each of his children: Trey, Taryn and Tevin.
“Words can’t describe how much I love you and would do anything for you,” he said, looking down at them.
Besides his family, Griffey thanked his coaches and teammates, some of them he mentioned individually and others he spoke about in a group. He called out and gave a special thanks to his close friend and former Mariners star Jay Buhner. Griffey called them two “brothers from a different mother.”
“He was the greatest teammate I ever had,” Griffey said. “A guy that gave everything he had on the field and a guy that spoke the truth even though you didn’t want to hear it. I will love you for that.”
“Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners,” he said. “From the day I got drafted until my first at-bat in the Kingdome, to the ’95 playoffs, to my first trip back to Seattle as a member of the Reds and my return to Seattle in 2009, to my retirement in 2010, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life. There are so many great things that I could talk about, but we would be here all day. So I am going to leave you with one thing:
“Out of my 22 years, I’ve learned that only one team will treat you the best, and that’s your first team. I’m damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner.”
As Griffey ended his speech, and the fans rose up and cheered as they gave their approval and love for the Kid, Griffey then stooped down and reached into the podium, pulled out his commemorative Hall of Fame Mariners hat and, like only the Kid can do, put it on backward to the roar of the crowd. It was the perfect ending to ceremony that gave us two very special and emotional speeches. So to Ken Griffey Jr & Mike Piazza: CONGRATULATIONS on your induction to the Major League Hall Of Fame.