Ken Griffey Jr.
Returned To Cincinnati, Struggled
Though Griffey continued to put up the numbers into the late 1990s, the Mariners did not, and Griffey grew frustrated about his lack of a championship. With a shaky bullpen, the team couldn't win. Unhappy, Griffey forced a trade after the 1999 season. Much to his delight, he landed with the Cincinnati Reds.
Cincinnati went wild with the news that Griffey was "coming home." In the announcement, Reds General Manager Jim Bowden declared, according to The Seattle Times "February 10, 2000, will go down in Reds' history, major-league history, as the day the Michael Jordan of baseball came home to Cincinnati."
Griffey signed a nine-year, $116.5 million deal. His yearly salary stood at $12.5 million, with the rest of the money deferred. The pressure mounted. Cincinnati was counting on Griffey to return the team to the World Series. With such high hopes, Griffey bombed. His time in Cincinnati was marred by injury and ill feelings with teammates who thought he got special treatment. Leg injuries in both the 2001 and 2002 seasons restricted him to 181 games total, and he smacked just 30 homers.
Frustrated with his injuries and slump, Griffey developed an edge. Teammates and media began to characterize him as a whiner and a spoiled brat. By 2002, Griffey's wife, Melissa, quit attending games because fans were abusing her, telling her to return to Seattle and take her husband with her. By December 2002, there was talk he would be traded.
When he's not busy with baseball, Griffey resides with his family in Orlando, Florida. He and his wife met at an alcohol-free dance club. They married after Griffey's 1992 season. They have three children, Trey and Taryn, along with Tevin, whom they adopted in 2002.
Griffey is also active in the Make-A-Wish Foundation and several times a year joins with children whose dream is to meet him. In addition, since 1994, he has sponsored a yearly Christmas dinner for youngsters from a local Boys and Girls Club. He also flies in to
Cincinnati children from the Seattle and Orlando Boys and Girls Clubs. He takes them to the amusement park, then brings them to the ballpark to watch him play.
Even if Griffey isn't able to get healthy and reclaim his position among the game's elite, he will still be remembered. After all, he made the All-Century Team in 1999. That puts him in the company of Hank Aaron and Ted Williams. Griffey may have faded from the spotlight after the turn of the century, but he has far from faded in the eyes of those who have seen him work his magic, leaping over walls to catch would-be home runs, or smacking picture-perfect homers. Those snapshots won't be forgotten.
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