Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. become first father/son combo to appear in the same lineup

Written by: Alex Coffey

When Ken Griffey Sr. negotiated the Mariners contract of his 17-year-old son in their Cincinnati home on June 2, 1987, he didn’t expect to be playing alongside him just over three years later.

“We do everything alike, except I hit more home runs,” boasted the younger Griffey to the Associated Press. “I guess it’s because of the aluminum bats.”

In a home game against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 31, 1990, this was put to the test, as Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. both jogged to the outfield, proudly donning the Mariners blue and yellow. They made history that Friday night, as the first father and son duo to appear in the same lineup.

But this wasn’t the first time the Griffeys had made history. They were the first father and son pair to play simultaneously in the major leagues. But becoming real teammates, beyond the occasional catch in the backyard, meant something more.

“Being a father, I guess it’s a dream come true,” Griffey Sr. said to the Washington Post. “This is the pinnacle – this is the thing in my career that I’m very proud of – very proud of. You can talk about the ’76 batting race I was in and all that. But to me this is number one.”

And the two did not disappoint in their debut.

Both Griffeys went 1-for-4, with Ken Griffey Sr. hitting a single in the first inning, thereby winning a bet he had made with his son that he would get the first hit out of the two of them. The 18-year major league veteran also showed off his defensive prowess, as he threw out Bo Jackson when he was trying to round second base. As Griffey Sr., received a standing ovation from the play, the future Hall-of-Famer beamed at his father.

As sentimental and historic as the occasion was, the Mariners organization was quick to dispel the notion that it was all for publicity.

“I want to make it perfectly clear: he’s not here just so we can say we have the first father and son,” insisted Mariners manager Jim Lefebvre. “If I were to look out there in the baseball world and say, ‘I want somebody who is a winner; a player who could come and be a strong influence on our young players – it would be Ken Griffey Sr.”

Ken Griffey Sr. was certainly familiar with winning. He made three National League All-Star teams, in 1976, 1977 and 1980, and won two World Series with the historic “Big Red Machine” in 1975 and 1976. But beyond that, he was a role model.

Ken Griffey Jr., a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2016, poses next to his plaque with his father (right). (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“If Kenny ever does what his daddy has done, he’ll be a great baseball player,” Sparky Anderson said to the Washington Post. “I can’t say enough about Ken Griffey as a person. He has so much class about him. He’ll always be one of my favorites. He never gave me a moment of problems.”

So, after being released by the Cincinnati Reds, 40-year-old Ken Griffey Sr. suddenly found himself playing alongside his 20-year-old son. Little did he know, that in 2016, that same fresh faced centerfielder would be immortalized in baseball history, as a member of the Hall of Fame.

“Junior sometimes tries to give Senior advice,” Ken Griffey Sr.’s wife, Birdie Griffey, said to the Associated Press. “But Senior tells Junior to turn over his bubble gum card and check his number of lines. Senior says, ‘When you fill up your bubble gum card like I have, then you can give me advice.’”

Alex Coffey was the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame

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