Griffey spoke 2nd on Sunday. I’ll say this, he wasn’t as eloquent as Piazza. But it was still very powerful. You could tell he was getting choked up by the moment. I think fans are happy to put players on a pedestal – but only if they acknowledge how special that pedestal is. Piazza did it in one way, Griffey in another. At first, he had trouble getting through his points because he was so visibly moved. I watched on TV when he got inducted to the Mariners Hall of Fame, and it was different. There, he was in control. Thankful, but he commanded his speech. It was different for this event – he was clearly nervous and the 50,000 or so fans there often cheered him on when he was lost for words.
This is all to say I took it as a good thing. Here’s a guy – who never looked nervous in center field or at the plate – get choked up about the HOF induction. I can appreciate that.
He did one subtle thing that, combined with the nerves he showed, was kind of cool. Most inductees wait til the end to get to their family. Mike Piazza did it 10 minutes before Griffey. I was at Rickey Henderson’s speech in 2009, and he was bummed because he got to the end and forgot to mention his family. Griffey went to his family – his dad, his mom, his 3 kids, his wife – first thing. It was a subtle difference from the norm that was, at the same time, hard to miss. The only time I felt he was comfortable in his speech was when he was talking about his kids. He seemed to want to get through the rest – the part about him. I hope that came through on TV. I have 2 kids, and I can respect that.
But he finished his speech up by pulling a hat from under the podium and putting it on backward. Very cool. I’ve read a couple of quotes from him where he didn’t always like the name “the Kid” because he got to a point where he had children and they were the kids – he didn’t feel like a kid any more. But I think him doing the backward hat thing is acknowledging that so many of his fans associate that with him. It’s one of the things that made him so endearing – it symbolized his youthful exuberance, and I thought it was a really cool move.
Side note – Griffey did and interview afterward with MLB Network. I can’t wait to get home to watch the DVR of it, mostly because I’m apparently visible in the background. I’m the guy with the Reds hat on backward – (again, I haven’t seen it so, “apparently”) everyone else was Seattle or NYM.
One other thing to note. After Griffey did the MLB Network interview, I noticed a family waiting for him. It wasn’t his family – and I was trying to figure out how they got the behind the ropes tickets that I couldn’t get 🙂
But the girl of the family turned around and she had a Reds #3 Jersey. It had Marino on the back, and I realized who they were. There was a lot of discussion about Piazza’s home run to win the first post-9/11 game. And rightfully so. Griffey had a story from that tragedy, too. The Marino kids lost their father in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He was a first respond firefighter who lost his life in the rescue operations. He was a big Griffey fan, and their story was well-documented if you want to look it up. Those kids probably miss their dad more than I could imagine, and I hope that whatever small tribute he brings them helps them to get peace.