Griffey And Piazza Take Different Paths To Hall Of Fame

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God Given Talent And Hard Work Lead To Cooperstown

By John Ventola

Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza were voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame back in January. When the honorees take the stage at Sunday’s induction ceremony stories about the path each took to Cooperstown should present an interesting contrast.

Griffey, the son of former star outfielder Ken Griffey, Sr., an integral cog in the Big Red

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Griffey Had All The Tools

Machine of Cincinnati back in the ‘70s, fulfilled his immense potential during his 23-year major league career while Piazza worked hard to develop his talent. Griffey was the No. 1 pick in the 1987 amateur draft, and Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round the following year.

Multi-talented Griffey made his big league debut at 19 and was destined to break many long standing baseball records until injuries late in his career caused a drop-off in performance. As it was, Griffey hit 630 home runs, drove in 1,836 runs, and had a lifetime batting average of .284. Outstanding players in any sport usually become known with a shortened moniker. Griffey simply became “Junior” to baseball fans during his illustrious career.

Junior spent 13 years in Seattle (starting in an outfield that included Senior in his final major league days), and enjoyed two stints and nine years in Cincinnati. He also

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Junior Was No. 1 Pick And First Ballot Hall Of Famer

appeared briefly with the Chicago White Sox late before finishing his career in Cincy at age 40.

The gifted outfielder received 437 of the 440 votes cast (99.3%) in his first appearance on the ballot. All former big leaguers have to be retired five season before they will be considered on H of F ballots. Player names will be kept on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years unless they fail to reach five per cent of the vote in any year.

Piazza, drafted by the Dodgers strictly as a favor to his father by former Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda (a childhood friend of Piazza’s father Vince and godfather to Mike’s brother Tommy), blossomed after his low round selection and spent seven years with Lasorda and LA during a mid-90s run. He would go on to spend eight productive years with the New

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Drafted As A Favor, Piazza Developed Into Big Time Hitter

York Mets as he became known as one of the best hitting catchers to ever play the game. He posted a .308 batting average while blasting 427 home runs and driving in 1,335 runs.

The converted catcher (drafted as a first baseman) garnered 365 of the 440 votes (83%) after finishing short last year when he got 69.9 per cent. To be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame, a former player has to receive 75% of the ballots cast. Piazza finished fifth last year behind Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio.

Piazza made his big league debut when he was 23 in early 1992 and played his last game in late 2007 at age 39. While maybe not as talented behind the plate as Johnny Bench, his bat more than held its own.

Other interesting names on the ballot included steroid embarrassed sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. McGwire, in his 10th year on the ballot, received 54 votes (12.3%) while Sosa received 31 votes (7%) in his fourth year of eligibility. Former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell, in his sixth year on the ballot, finished third in this year’s tally when he received 315 votes (71.6%), falling just short of joining his buddy Biggio in the Hall.

Griffey and Piazza, both going into Cooperstown. While it was always envisioned for Junior, a favor paved the way for one of the better stories in baseball. Piazza did it the old fashioned way—he earned it!

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