Some ballplayers are born, others are made, and thankfully the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown accepts them no matter the path.
Congratulations Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr.
Piazza overcame obstacles, worked hard for the privileges granted to him thanks to his father, and on Sunday, July 24, reaped the reward of his labor. Griffey Jr. joins him, representing ballplayers of raw, natural talent, only further enhanced by hard work and genetics. Both represent what has been and will always be, possible in the Major League Baseball, and in the United States. Two history-making careers lead them to the same patch of grass, on the same day in New York.
Though not necessarily a first ballot Hall of Famer, Piazza earned the greatest of honors three years after appearing on the ballot. Piazza, guided by family friend Tommy Lasorda, and by his own unwavering hard work and determination. Lasorda suggested he step away from the first base and into a catcher’s role. The change in position was tumultuous. It lead him to step away from the game while in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system. Ultimately, the move to catcher, though difficult, did fast track his career. In 1993, only a few years after making the switch, Piazza was awarded the Rookie of the Year award. He went from an amateur draft pick with connections to coaching royalty in Lasorda to hitting .316 with 18 home runs in the 1993 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also proved himself to be one of the better catchers behind the dish, help pitchers across the league achieve success. Piazza would go on to play with the Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics, but most notably the New York Mets. Piazza helped bring the Mets to the World Series in 2000. He saw 10 consecutive, and 12 overall, All-Star games during his 15-year MLB career. And in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, he brought hope to many New Yorkers by hitting a home run, giving the Mets the lead.
Griffey Jr., “The Kid,” on the other hand, is an athlete of raw talent having hit 630 home runs throughout a career that spans over four decades. Yes, he had to follow in the footsteps of his talented father, Ken Griffey, Senior who played for the Cincinati Reds as part of the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. Griffey Jr. was not intimidated by his father’s successful career. He gained strength from it. Junior had one of the more perfect swings in baseball and his defensive work in the outfield was otherworldly. He stole many a home run from batters that faced the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox over his twenty years in the league. Griffey earned ten Golden Gloves and saw thirteen All-Star games thanks to a devoted fan base. Junior’s hallmark swing earned him 2,781 hits and 1,836 runs batted in.
Griffey Jr. continued to make history after his career was over by receiving 99.32 percent of the Hall of Fame induction vote. Baseball writers, a group of people known to not agree on anything, came to a clear consensus in this instance.
Griffey was just that good, truly a natural. Piazza, too, was incredible. Even though they took different routes they landed in the same spot on the same day, enshrined together in bronze forever having achieved Major League Baseball’s highest honor.