I drew this last fall, when rumors first began to swirl that Junior might retire. I've been meaning to do it up properly in pastels, but haven't gotten around to it yet. My art supplies will be catching up to me in my new home this weekend, and I'm pretty sure this'll be the first project I take on.
In the meantime, I'm going to re-share a comment I made earlier this week, when souldrummer asked why all Reds fans don't hate Griffey:
In 1999, the Reds came within a single game of making the playoffs for the first time in what we thought back then was a long time (oh, poor naive us.) Fans and players were disappointed, sure, but it didn’t feel like an end. It felt like a beginning. That optimism swelled to new heights when Junior came over from Seattle that offseason. The city fell in love immediately.
It’s not just that Junior was possibly the best player in the game at the time. He had a history here. He was connected to the glory days of the Big Red Machine, played high school baseball here, and wanted to come home. He was the final piece that was missing from that ’99 season.
People forget Griffey played well that first year, and the Reds even had a winning season. He was, as expected, a joy to watch. Then the injuries came. And sure, the team never made the playoffs, and, sure, some fans turned on him. But they were the ones who weren’t paying attention. The injuries were never Junior’s fault, and you could always tell it ate him up to not be able to play. And if the front office didn’t build a winner around him, that wasn’t his fault, either. When he was healthy, Griffey played well for the Reds. He continued to hit (including home runs #500 and 600) and he even played his trademark good defense for several years.
He may not have been the Savior everyone wanted him to be, but that wasn’t his fault. I sometimes still can’t believe that Ken Griffey, Jr., was a Red for ten years. I can’t believe that I got to see him play. He was one of the best, and he played for my team. That’s worth celebrating.
Goodbye, Ken Griffey! I enjoyed your time with the Reds. If you need me to read over your Hall of Fame acceptance speech sometime in the next five years, just holler.