Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in 1989 vs. the A’s; now he’s headed to Cooperstown this summer.
It was no surprise that Ken Griffey Jr. threw out the first pitch before Seattle’s home opener against the A’s Friday night.
Griffey, after all, is the quintessential Mariner and in January was voted into the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers, and he’ll be formally inducted this summer in Cooperstown.
It was just coincidence that the A’s were in town, but it was against Oakland, in the coliseum, that Griffey had his first Major League opening day back on April 3, 1989.
His first at-bat was against Dave Stewart, at that point in the middle of four consecutive 20-win seasons for Oakland. Griffey crushed a double in his first at-bat.
Dave Henderson is all smiles while signing for A’s fans in 2000.
I got a chance to connect with some of the guys I grew up with Sunday.
At the other end of the phone were Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Sandy Alderson, Terry Steinbach and Tony La Russa.
This isn’t a case of dropping names here. These are some of the guys I talked to after the news came out that Dave Henderson, center fielder par excellence for the A’s from 1988-93 had died in Seattle at 57 of a massive heart attack.
When I returned to the A’s beat in the spring of 2013, I hadn’t seen Bob Welch in about five years, maybe more.
I’d hit the road for a dozen-plus years in Seattle and he’d spent time away from the A’s working for the Arizona Diamondbacks but ultimately had been lured back to the Oakland organization by longtime buddy Curt Young.
We’d almost always gotten along well enough, although there are going to be rocky patches between reporters and players, and that’s never going to change.
We started talking, rehashing old times and I was completely unprepared for what happened next. Welch called longtime A’s photographer Michael Zagaris over from the far side of the clubhouse, put his arm around my shoulder and told Zagaris, `I want a picture with this guy.’ ’’
That’s sort of the way it was with Bobby Welch. He liked people. He loved baseball. And anything that brought the two of them together was all right by him.
The A’s have been very good at deflecting pressure, putting one foot in front of the other and moving on a very orderly path through the 2013 season.
Does all that change now, with the season down to one game?
They won’t want to admit it, but yes it does.
Just not so much for the players. Most of them went through the disappointment of losing in Game 5 of the 2012 playoffs to Detroit and Justin Verlander, and they know the obstacle the Tigers are.
Chili Davis, Rickey Henderson (both crouching in front) and Dave Stewart (far right, standing) gather Friday morning with members of the youth baseball team Stewart coaches.
PHOENIX – There’s nothing quite like seeing a few of the old-timers around, especially as one creeps towards old-time status oneself.
So it was nice to run across Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart today with the A’s. I covered them when they were crucial parts of the A’s championship run 1988-1990 (Rickey didn’t land back in Oakland until 1989, but you get the point).
I grew up within five minutes of the Oakland Coliseum. Joe Rudi’s catch in the 1972 World Series was my first baseball memory. I had season tickets during the Bash Brothers era. And I covered most of the 20-game winning streak. So I think it’s fair when I say the A’s have had a huge place in my life.
Given all that, I could not be more embarrassed at their inability to put on even a decent ceremony involving some of their former greats.