Knobler: Boy Wonder stealing spotlight
The idea was simple. Run a few names past Ken Griffey Jr. while he's on the short list for admission to one of baseball's most exclusive clubs. Get his impressions of the five guys he's about to join in the game's hallowed 600-homers wing.
|Ken Griffey Jr. has always been the kind to deflect all of the attention. (US Presswire)|
"I just don't think like that," Griffey was saying during a conversation in San Diego last week. "I was always taught that those guys can't help you.
"No matter who it is, you've got to go out and help yourself."
OK, that's all well and good. Terrific lesson for the kids. Infinitely better lesson than some of our steroid-addled sluggers and pitchers have been sending in recent years.
But ... you have to have some kind of thoughts when you hear the name Ruth, right? Or Aaron?
"Having a dad who wasn't a mega-superstar, who was basically your blue-collar baseball player, that makes it different," Griffey says. "It was basically, 'Go play and have some fun.'
"These guys are great baseball players, but they're not you, and you're not them. You don't know what they're thinking. They don't know what you're thinking."
This is the Griffey I've come to know -- and, more often than not, enjoy -- over the years: You can't pin him down, especially when the subject, either directly or indirectly, is Ken Griffey Jr.
And now that he's sitting on 598 home runs and everyone wants to poke into the corners of his mind and prod into the shadows of his thoughts, well, let's just say this is a moment he would rather push through than live in.
"I never thought I'd hit 200 home runs," he says. "If I had the career my dad had, I'd be happy. I never dreamed I'd be knocking on the door of 600, 500, 400, 300. My dad hit 152."
He's only slightly more comfortable talking about himself than he would be attempting to walk across the Ohio River. And we all learned long ago that, despite early career illusions to the contrary, he couldn't do that.
We learned that when Junior's youthful, light-up-the-game smile started to flash less and less, and clouds rolled in. It was right around the time he learned a guy has to be careful what he wishes for -- even if it is his hometown, Cincinnati has never fit like Seattle did -- and just about when his body began to betray him.