(Reuters) – With his distinctive style and ear-to-ear smile, Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Major League Baseball (MLB) Hall of Fame on Sunday along with former slugger Mike Piazza.
Nicknamed “The Kid”, Griffey’s timeless swing and grace in the outfield made him one of the most exciting and popular players in baseball history, and he once again thrilled fans during his ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.
“I want to thank my family, my friends, the fans, the Reds, the White Sox and the Mariners for making this kid’s dream come true,” Griffey said.
He then reached underneath the podium, pulled out a Hall of Fame cap and placed it backwards upon his head — just as he had done while warming up for games throughout his career.
Griffey played 22 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, though the bulk of his glory came in Seattle, where he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1987 draft before breaking into the league two years later as a 19-year-old.
A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997.
But his legacy is as much about the attractive way he performed as the numbers he produced in achieving 99.3 percent of the Hall of Fame votes cast.
Piazza’s ride to Cooperstown was less ordained as he rose from a 62nd round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers to a hulking figure behind the plate.
Piazza, a 12-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, owns the MLB record for most home runs by a catcher with 396.
He finished with 427 homers overall during a 16-year career with the Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.
Boasting a career batting average of .308, Piazza will long be remembered for hitting a game-winning home run for the Mets in the first sporting event played in New York after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“To all the legends and Hall of Famers on this stage behind me, you all have given us great joy and inspiration,” Piazza said.
“The only way I ever thought I would ever be here with you is if I bought a ticket. It’s a testament to our great country and game that dreams can come true.”
(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both)