CINCINNATI – Ken Griffey Jr. hugged other members of the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame. One hug meant more than the others. He embraced his father, who was wearing a red jacket signifying that he’s already honored in the hall.
Junior will have one of his own after this weekend.
Griffey, Dave Parker and Ron Oester – all of whom grew up playing baseball in Cincinnati – were honored on the field Saturday before a game against the Miami Marlins. The late Jake Beckley, who played in the 1800s, also is part of the team’s 2014 Hall of Fame class. They’ll be formally inducted Sunday.
Last August, Junior went into Seattle’s Hall of Fame, giving an emotional and unscripted speech that went nearly 25 minutes. He’s expected to be a first-ballot entrant into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2016, his first year of eligibility.
He played with Donora native Ken Griffey Sr. in Seattle and was touched to join him in the Reds’ hall.
“The ultimate goal as an individual player is to be in the Hall of Fame when you grow up,” Junior said. “This is no different. To be in the Hall of Fame with my dad is special.”
Junior’s homecoming in 2000 through a trade with Seattle left Reds fans dreaming of a run of playoff appearances and championships. They never reached the playoffs during his nine seasons in Cincinnati (2000-08). He was was sidelined by various injuries much of the time.
That’s his only regret.
“The one thing is just not being able to win a championship,” he said. “I think everybody dreams about winning it. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
During his brief address to the crowd before the game, Junior choked up when he recalled he got to wear his father’s uniform number in Cincinnati. His dad was part of the Big Red Machine that won World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.
“I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done,” Junior said. “I got a chance to wear the uniform that my dad wore and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Parker got the nickname “Cobra” with the Pirates. He was one of Cincinnati’s first major free agent signings, playing in his hometown from 1984-87.
“This is the greatest honor bestowed on me thus far,” Parker said.
Oester spent his entire 13-year career with the Reds. As a youth, he hung out at Gate B at Riverfront Stadium – the Reds’ old ballpark – trying for autographs.
“I can’t describe how I feel,” Oester said. “I need to be pinched. I never dreamed about being in the Hall of Fame. I know I’m not dreaming.”