The Seattle Mariners have never done such a thing in their history. Friday evening, president Kevin Mather announced that the Mariners will be retiring number 24 in honor of newly inducted Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey Jr. was elected into the Hall of Fame Wednesday with a record percentage of the vote (99.3) and just confirmed Thursday that he would wear a Mariners hat on his plaque.
“Ken Griffey Jr. was the first player selected in the 1987 draft, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the first player in Hall of Fame history to amass over 99 percent of the vote and the first player to wear a Mariners cap on his Hall of Fame plaque,” Mather said. “It seems only fitting that he be the first Mariners player to have his number retired.”
Mather also announced that August 5-7 would be “Ken Griffey Jr. Weekend” at Safeco Field as the Mariners welcome Junior back to Seattle in their first series following the induction ceremony in Cooperstown.
“For them to say, we don’t want anybody to wear this number, it’s overwhelming and scary,” Griffey said. “But it’s one of those things that makes you feel good as a person and player that they respected what you did.”
Not only will no one wear number 24 at the MLB level, but no one in the entire organization will wear the number 24 in honor of Ken Griffey Jr.
To go along with that, the number will hang in left field next to Jackie Robinson‘s number 42, a player that Griffey Jr. has a tremendous amount of respect for.
“Having my number next to him?” Griffey Jr. said with a drawn out pause collecting his thoughts and emotions. “I don’t think I did half of what he did. Baseball-wise, yeah, you can look at the numbers and things like that. But the way he went about his life and the things he did off the field nobody can compare to that. He’s a trailblazer in more ways than one. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Joe Black, who would tell me stories about how Jackie played and what he meant to the guys off the field.”
Griffey Jr. is a revered figure in Seattle and will always be, but as to the reason he decided to choose to wear a Mariners hat? He made it seem like a no-brainer.
“I played 13 seasons here, did most of my damage here, I was drafted here and it’s the right the thing to do,” Griffey Jr. said.
The Mariners will always be connected with Griffey Jr., and now, following a Hall of Fame election with a retired number to boot, his long journey that has taken him from Florida to New York City, and finally to Seattle, comes to a nice end.
“This definitely caps a long, wonderful week.”