The National Baseball Hall of Fame has unveiled its newest members! Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. Griffey made history by receiving 99.3% of the votes, the most for any Hall of Famer. Piazza was elected with 83% of the votes during his fourth year on the ballot. Griffey and Piazza were trailblazers at their respective positions throughout their careers. Here’s a list of their accomplishments and what they each meant to the game.
Ken Griffey Jr. was destined for greatness. He was drafted as the #1 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1987 at the age of 18. Griffey played an exciting brand of baseball at the plate and in centerfield and was a fixture on sports highlight reels. He was undoubtedly the best player in the 1990s and he had the numbers to prove it. He’s sixth all-time on the HR list with 630, he has 2,781 hits, and he was elected to 13 All-Star games. Defensively, he won 10 Golden Glove Awards as a centerfielder by taking away extra base hits and robbing home runs with ease. In 1999, he was the youngest player to be named to the MLB’s All-Century team.
His nickname was “The Kid” because that’s exactly how he played the game. He made everything look effortless, from his smooth and majestic swing to his gracefulness in the outfield. Griffey’s auspicious start to his career paved the way for today’s exciting young players in the game today including Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, and Kris Bryant.
Mike Piazza was revered as one of the top offensive catchers in MLB history. But unlike Griffey, he was drafted as the 1,390th pick in the 1988 draft. Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda drafted him as a favor from Piazza’s father. Piazza made the most of his opportunity and never looked back. He earned 10 Silver Slugger Awards, he smashed 427 home runs (396 as a catcher), and he batted .308 for his career. Piazza was one of the catalyst for the New York Mets during his years in the Big Apple, helping them to win the NL pennant in the year 2000.
Traditionally, catchers are primarily responsible for managing the game behind the plate and are not known to provide much offensively. Piazza was one of the few catchers in baseball history who consistently struck fear into the opposing pitcher. The stats that he compiled are a rare feat any catcher, let alone any ballplayer.
Griffey and Piazza were superstars in every aspect of the game. Both players had different paths to the majors, but all that matters is the end result. Next stop, Cooperstown.