SEATTLE (AP) — For a moment, forget about what Ken Griffey Jr. was as a professional.
Ken Griffey Sr. remembers a time when his son was a kid, before he became The Kid, running around the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse with the sons of other players like Tony Perez and Pete Rose.
And, of course, wearing his dad’s hat backward in order to see.
“You’re talking about a kid 7, 8, 9 years old and his thinking was, ‘I can’t see to catch the ball, I got to do something to make this hat fit.’ So he just turned it around backward and he got used to doing that,” Ken Griffey Sr. recalled on Wednesday after his son was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. “He would come in all the time and turn it around backward just to play catch. And that’s what was the funny part. A lot of people didn’t understand it. … He never disrespected the game. This was a game he knew and he loved and he enjoyed playing.”
The younger Griffey took his place in the Hall along with Mike Piazza on Wednesday. Griffey will go to Cooperstown with the highest vote percentage at 99.3, getting 437 of 440 ballots. That bettered Tom Seaver’s 98.84 in 1992.
Griffey’s No. 24 was flying high, too, on a banner atop Seattle’s famed Space Needle hours after his election.
The backward hat was a signature of Griffey as much as his smile, the flawless swing and the highlight catches. The elder Griffey said the family was hoping to get the call on his son’s first year of eligibility; the highest vote percentage was a shock.
“I’m just a proud father, just glad everything went the right way,” Griffey said. “He did the things that he was supposed to do the right way and that is what is most important to me.”
The two Griffey’s will be linked as father-and-son professionals and specifically the time they spent with the Mariners in the same lineup in the 1990-91 seasons before the elder Griffey retired. When they were in the lineup together, father typically batted second and son third. They homered back-to-back in September 1990 at Angels Stadium off Kirk McCaskill.
For the older Griffey, being in the lineup together was special — and a little odd the first time.
“It’s the first time I ever heard me being in the batter’s box and hearing somebody holler out ‘Let’s go dad!’ and he’s the hitter behind me,” Griffey said. “That was a strange feeling. I had to step out of the batter’s box and get myself back in order to think about what I’ve got to do, which is try to get a base hit.”
The elder Griffey, from Donora, Pa., was a three-time All-Star in his career and was on the Hall of Fame ballot once, receiving 22 votes in his only appearance in 1997 before being dropped. The younger Griffey credited his dad for instilling the work ethic that made him the best player in baseball for much of the 1990s.
“He was an All-Star. He wasn’t a superstar, but he was an All-Star and the work ethic that he had and the things that I knew at an early age because I watched him and the things that he told me … only fueled me to go out there and want to play and be the best,” the younger Griffey said.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.