CINCINNATI—Overcome with a mixture of distaste at the almost certain future and a wistful sense at the way things could and should have been, baseball fans across America took time to address veteran Reds superstar Ken Griffey Jr. yesterday in order to let him know that they sincerely wish that Griffey, and not Barry Bonds, was on the verge of hitting his record-breaking 756th home run.
Enlarge Image Ken Griffey
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Mr. Griffey, because the last thing we as a nation want is for you to think you’ve disappointed us by not breaking this record,” the country’s message, which was read to a quiet and humble Griffey by retired Seattle, WA–area mechanical engineer and lifelong baseball fan Robert Colgrave, began. “America knows you did everything you could, and we couldn’t be more proud of you. In fact, that’s the whole point—we think you’re a man who is actually worthy of this record.”
“Believe us, if life was as fair as baseball, you’d have 760 homers right now,” said Colgrave, pausing as if momentarily overcome. “More, even. And you’d still be chalking them up. You’re a natural talent. God’s gift to the baseball diamond. It’s just… Damn bad luck, is all. Bad luck and trouble.”
The likeable but injury-plagued Griffey currently stands eighth on the all-time home-run list with 574, only nine back from Mark McGwire in seventh. However, America insists that without the bizarre injuries that plagued his career, Griffey would have had a legitimate shot at hitting 756.
“I mean, when a guy misses out on the Rookie of the Year because he slips and hurts his wrist in the shower… Where’s the sense in that?” America said. “Being denied the single-season home run record in 1994 because of the baseball strike? Not fair. It’s amazing that with every bad hand you’ve been dealt that you haven’t packed it in and called it a day. Frankly, you’re an inspiration—unlike some players this nation could name.”
The nation then went out of its way to praise Griffey for the many great moments and high points of Griffey’s career, claiming it had “always meant to do so but never seemed to find the right moment.” Special attention was paid to Griffey’s decision to play for his father’s old team, wearing his father’s No. 30, in the city of his youth; his decision to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day, and to encourage other players to do so; and his appearance on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.
Throughout the address, the nation emphasized the humility, grace, and joy with which Griffey embraced the national pastime. They talked about buying his batting gloves and signature baseball cleats as children, imitating his stance and perfect home-run swing in batting cages, and how they would ask their father’s to hit long fly balls so they could make “Griffey-esque” catches in centerfield. They talked about his 1989 Upper Deck rookie card, and how, instead of going down in value with every hamstring injury, it should have skyrocketed in price with his 800th, maybe 900th home run. They talked about the guy who made wearing baseball caps backwards cool. And they talked about the elation they felt when Griffey became the first one to ever hit the Camden Yards Warehouse during a monstrous shot in 1993’s Home Run Derby.
“I would be proud to have Ken Griffey Jr. break my home-run record,” current record-holder and Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron said upon being told of the nation’s statement. “I would most certainly attend any game in which he had a chance of doing so. And I would come down from the stands and hug him fiercely after he crossed the plate and had been congratulated by his teammates. I really don’t think I’d be able to help myself.”
“Hell, I’ll probably attend the game he’s playing in when my record is broken in any case,” Aaron added.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, responding to overwhelming demand, has confirmed that an asterisk will be placed next to Griffey’s name in the record books in order to indicate that, in a perfect world where dignity is always rewarded, cheaters never triumph, and people always get what they really deserve, Griffey would have hit one more home run than Barry Bonds’ career total.
That last paragraph kills me.