Griffey should be lauded for doing things the right way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12, 2008

Thank you, Ken Griffey Jr., for showing the world that you don’t need to be juiced like a watermelon to excel in your sport.

Thank you, Mr. Griffey, for being a role model for baseball players everywhere, for not showing up on the nightly news in handcuffs or part of a Las Vegas shooting.

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Thank you, Mr. Griffey, for hitting your 600th home run on Monday night and doing it without the help of a needle. We all know that if it weren’t for a career plagued by injuries that it would be you rounding the bases after surpassing the great Hank Aaron instead of the pharmaceutically altered current home run king.

You have proven that smiles can still be genuine, not just drummed up for the cameras. You have shown all budding baseball players that work hard, do things right and great things will happen.

Next on the home run list for you to surpass is Sammy Sosa, the mammoth-headed Chicago Cub more famous for forgetting how to speak English in front of Congress than his 609 home runs. Then you’ll target Willie Mays, a player of mythical proportion who hit 660 homers without the help of steroids.

Babe Ruth and Aaron are in the distance with 714 and 755 homers, respectively. Then comes Barry Bonds. He has no team and his reputation is in tatters. For the next nine months we will be inundated with his trial for perjury in a steroid scandal that rocked the sport. We will hear countless tales of his juicing, his denials, his ever-expanding head size and those 762 home runs – the last 400 or so with an asterisk next to them. We are already sick of Barry Bonds, and his pretrial circus will only make us loathe him more.

But I believe that when we stop focusing on the Bondses and the Sosas of the world, the needles and the hearings, and start concentrating on the Griffeys, we may actually feel the same way about baseball that our grandfathers and fathers felt about it.

In 1957, my dad, then 14, and his dad went to old Cleveland Municipal Stadium to watch an Indians-Red Sox game. Dad had a then-modern camera and snapped a picture of the great Ted Williams. “It was just a speck in the outfield,” Dad recalled of the picture, “but if you take my word for it, it is Ted Williams.”

Can we honestly say watching Barry Bonds in person would give the same nostalgic feeling? Hardly.

It’s naive to believe that baseball will ever return to the days of yesteryear when an out-of-focus speck on a black-and-white print will send us back in time, at least in our memories.

But watching Ken Griffey Jr. connecting on No. 600, rounding the bases with the same broad grin he had as a can’t miss rookie gives us a little more faith in the game we love.

So once again, thank you, Ken Griffey Jr. You may not have scraped the muck off our national pastime, but you proved to millions that great things can be accomplished outside of a courtroom, without the help of a needle.


Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at