Saturday, June 12, 2004

Daugherty: Q&A with Ken Griffey Sr.

Dad used to inhibit teen Jr.; Senior most proud of how Griffey's handled himself lately in spotlight

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Ken Griffey Sr. spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday seated in Section 113 of Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, several rows behind the Reds dugout, waiting for Ken Griffey Jr. to hit home runs No. 499 and 500. When Junior appeared at the plate, Senior would exhort him, "Just get one. That's all we want. Take some of the pressure off."

Junior went homer-less against the A's, sending Senior and the rest of Junior's immediately family to Cleveland last night, for the weekend. During Wednesday night's game, we caught up with Ken Griffey Sr. at the Coliseum.

Question: What's the one thing you would change about the way you raised Ken Jr.?

Answer: Nothing.

photo gallery
Photos of Friday's game
Q. That messes up my next question: What is the one thing you absolutely would not change? What might you reinforce more than you did?

A. Getting better grades. I didn't know he was going to be drafted number one. I thought he'd go to college. He didn't have a hit in front of me for six years.

Q: What?

A: Age 12 to 18. Twenty to 25 games. I think he struck out 17 times. He was trying too hard. Like now. His coach at Moeller, (Mike) Cameron, told me don't come to the games. One day they called me. It was a playoff game. They told me to stay way out, and use binoculars.

Q: What do you admire most about Junior now?

A: How he's handled himself lately. It has been miserable for him the last three or four years. He's been tough to be around. Now he's healthy and happy. He can be on the field. His protection is on the field.

Q: Is there one hitting tip you tend to repeat to him?

A: See the ball. He wants to lift the ball. Just hit on top of it. I can watch him on TV, call somebody and tell them to tell him what to do. Three weeks ago, I told him his hands were slow. He hit a double and a home run that night, (then) he went on that tear.

Q: How would you describe him to a total stranger who knew nothing about baseball?

A: As a five-tool player. When he's playing well, he's probably the best player in the game.

Q: Is there any game you can still beat him in?

A: No. Not even golf. I switched from playing left-handed three years ago, started playing right-handed. I couldn't find the golf course left-handed. When I turned around, I dropped 15 strokes in six months. And he still beats me.

Q: Complete the sentence: If I were Ken Griffey Jr. and heard all the taunts from fans in the stands, I would. ...

A: Ignore them and play my game. Don't say a thing. Just get in the dugout.

Q: Bobby and Barry? Or Ken and Ken?

A: I don't know. Bobby hit third and fourth in the lineup. I hit second. My job was to move Pete Rose over. I did my job. Junior and Barry do their jobs. The only other thing is, I have three World Series rings (1975, 1976 and 1990). I'm the only Red to do that.

Q: Did you ever use the phrase, "When I was your age?"

A: Not much. I might tell him some things I wouldn't have done as a player. But by the time he was 19, he'd done it all. The day he got drafted, right after high school, we went down to Atlanta, where I was playing, and got Junior with (former Braves hitting coach) Willie Stargell for three hours. Some of the things Willie talked to him about, I didn't even know, and I'd been playing 14 years. And Junior made the adjustments.

Q: If Junior were giving your eulogy, what would you hope he'd say about you?

A: That I was a good father. That we had a good time together as father and son, and as a grandparent. That's it.

Q: Was he a mama's boy?

A: Straight up.

Q: In your opinion, when Junior goes into the Hall of Fame, will it be as a Mariner or a Red?

A: Probably as a Mariner. He played 10 years as a Mariner, and he played so well.

Q: How does he celebrate Father's Day?

A: He'll call, ask me where I want to go to dinner, send me a little something. His first six or seven years, he hit a home run on my birthday (April 10) every year.

Q: Did he have to clean his plate?

A: No.

Q: Make his bed?

A: Yes.

Q: Brush his teeth?

A: His mother made him do that, and clean his room.

Q: Take out the trash?

A: Oh, yeah. Birdie (Junior's mother) was pretty tough on him when she had to be.

Q: Did he live in the Reds clubhouse as a kid?

A: No. Not at all. The only time Kenny was allowed on the field was at Father and Son games. Junior came down to the ballpark when his mother did. Petey (Rose Jr.) was always around because he was a batboy. Junior was never a batboy. Never wanted to be. Same as Junior's son, Trey. Trey likes football and basketball.

Q: If Junior had played for the Big Red Machine, where would you have played?

A: Where I was (right field).

Q: Who would've been on the bench?

A: I don't think Junior would have. I don't think I would have, either.

There was no one that could hit between Pete Rose and Joe Morgan but me.

Q: Cesar Geronimo?

A: Probably

Q: If Junior were standing at the pearly gates, what would you say to St. Peter on his behalf?

A: Let him in 'cause he can play.



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