With the Hall of Fame election announcement looming on Wednesday, the question is less about whether Ken Griffey Jr. will be elected. The real question is how there will possibly be enough room on Griffey's bronze plaque in Cooperstown to list all of his accomplishments.
After all, this is a man who hit more than 600 career home runs, spurred fans into making big rookie card investments, appeared on "The Simpsons,'' imitated Spider-Man with his acrobatic catches, saved a franchise, built a stadium, made a baseball fashion statement and ran for president of the United States (well, sort of).
"I would say he's the best center fielder who ever played the game,'' said Jay Buhner, Griffey's good friend and former teammate. "He had the sweetest swing, the biggest smile and the hat-on-backward thing. His energy was infectious and contagious. You talk about guys who could carry a team for a week or a month, well, Junior could carry it for a year.
"He was around the game all his life. He grew up around Hall of Famers. The game was like his second home.''
And now Cooperstown will almost certainly become a third home for Junior, though the person charged with writing the text on his plaque will face quite a challenge. To help out, and honor the player who wore No. 24 so well, here are 24 of Griffey's greatest feats and most significant cultural contributions:
1. Like father, like son: A week after making his big league debut, Griffey hit his first major league home run on the very first pitch thrown to him at the Mariners' home opener on April 10, 1989, in the Kingdome. It was even more remarkable given that it was his father's birthday. The next season, on Aug. 31, 1990, Junior and Ken Griffey Sr. became the first father-son pair to ever play together in the majors. A few weeks later, on Sept. 14, they homered back-to-back -- a feat no pair has since matched. "And I don't think it will ever happen again,'' Buhner said. The two combined to hit .310 with 13 homers in 48 games together, with Senior actually outhitting Junior, .331 to .291.
2. Like father, but not like son, nor daughter: Not surprisingly, Junior's kids also are excellent athletes; eldest son Trey Griffey plays football at the University of Arizona and daughter Taryn is a guard on the Arizona women's basketball team. But they, along with youngest son, Tevin, 12, never showed great interest in baseball. "Baseball will always be in my genes,'' Trey -- who followed in Junior's footsteps in one respect by making a big play on his dad's birthday -- told ESPN.com in 2012. "I'll always know a lot about it because of my father and grandfather. But I don't really have the love for it that I do for football.'' Which is fine with his father. "He is not his dad,'' Junior once told ESPN.com. "I learned that from a young age. People feel like they have a right to judge you because of past history. He is trying to make his own history.''
3. Like mother, like son: And don't forget Griffey's mother, Birdie. Junior doesn't. Especially on Mother's Day, when he homered seven times in his career. "You try to do your best on certain days, and Mother's Day is one of them,'' Griffey said after his seventh career Mother's Day homer in 2009. "You don't want to get yelled at by Mom at home if you take an 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.''
4. Family ties -- vs. family Bonds: Junior and Senior combined for 782 home runs, 4,924 hits, 2,791 runs, 2,695 RBIs, 16 All-Star Game appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and one MVP award during their careers. That's impressive, but not the best all-time MLB numbers by a father-son duo. Bobby and Barry Bonds combined for 1,094 homers, 4,821 hits, 3,485 runs, 3,020 RBIs, 975 stolen bases, 17 All-Star selections, 11 Gold Gloves and seven MVPs (the last all Barry). If only Junior's younger brother, Craig, who played seven seasons in the minors, had reached the majors.
5. Whew! That was close, Seattle fans: When his team earned the first pick in the 1987 draft, Mariners owner George Argyros decided to pick college pitcher Mike Harkey. Fortunately, club president Chuck Armstrong, general manager Dick Balderson and scouting director Roger Jongewaard overruled Argyros and made Griffey their selection. Griffey's agent, Brian Goldberg, says Seattle offered Junior a $160,000 signing bonus roughly 72 hours before the draft and he accepted it so he would be the No. 1 pick. That bonus not only was about $6.3 million less than what 2015 No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson got last summer, it was less than what 1987's No. 2 pick, Mark Merchant, received. Goldberg says Griffey didn't care. "I'm confident I'll make up whatever the difference was," Junior told him at the time. He did, earning roughly $150 million over the course of his career.
6. Retired numbers: Griffey famously wore No. 24 with Seattle, choosing it because Rickey Henderson sported the number with the Yankees when Griffey Sr. played there. But shortly after Junior was traded to Cincinnati in 2000, the Reds retired No. 24 for Tony Perez. So Griffey switched to No. 30, the number his father had worn in Cincy. Junior switched again, to No. 3, in 2006 to recognize his three children. After he was traded to the White Sox in 2008, he switched to No. 17 because 3 was retired (for Harold Baines) and 30 was taken (by Nick Swisher). Griffey finally changed back to 24 when he rejoined the Mariners in 2009.
More significantly, Griffey wore No. 42 on April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut, after receiving special permission from MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Robinson's widow, Rachel. That started the tradition of every player wearing No. 42 every Jackie Robinson Day.
7. Hit it here, Junior! Griffey didn't like being called a home run hitter because he considered himself "a line-drive hitter" -- which is odd considering that he hit a home run out of the Kingdome and off the Space Needle. OK, that was just in a commercial, but he did actually slam a ball off the warehouse at Camden Yards during the 1993 Home Run Derby. With that beautiful swing of his, Griffey also led the league in home runs four times, including 1994, when he hit 40 home runs in 111 games before the strike. He also homered in a record-tying eight consecutive games in 1993, after which Mariners catcher Dave Valle said, "If he were in any other city, he would be the Michael Jordan of baseball.''
Ah, but he already was the Ken Griffey Jr. of baseball -- which Michael Jordan could not duplicate.
8. Hitting the Upper Deck: Junior's beaming face was featured on card No. 1 in the first series issued by Upper Deck in 1989, and collectors quickly stored it away, believing they would make a fortune off the small piece of cardboard. No such luck. The price of the card eventually reached $150, but expectations that it could be worth as much as a Mickey Mantle rookie card (one of which recently sold for $486,000) were never fulfilled. For one reason, the card market collapsed after the 1994 strike. Two, Upper Deck printed more than one million Griffey cards and so many people saved them that there still is no shortage of the cards. Don Joss, owner of Seattle-based DJ's Sportscards, says the retail price today for one is usually around $20.
But Griffey's card wasn't the only notable collectible from his rookie year. ...
9. A chocolate bar, but no Junior Mints: Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth each had chocolate bars named for them after they became stars (though the Curtiss Candy Co. dubiously claimed the Baby Ruth bar was actually named after former President Grover Cleveland's daughter). The Ken Griffey Jr. bar debuted barely one month into his rookie season. DJ's Sportscards still has Griffey bars for sale ($4), but it might be wise to keep them in their wrappers rather than snack on them 27 years later. Especially since Junior said his face broke out after he ate one in 1989.
10. When success went to his head: Griffey was so talented that he taught baseball fundamentals to Bigfoot in a 1991 episode of the forgettable "Harry and the Hendersons.'' His most famous TV appearance, however, was in the 1992 Simpsons episode, "Homer at the Bat,'' in which Griffey's head swelled to an absurd size after he drank "nerve tonic'' provided by Mr. Burns (or perhaps it was Jose Canseco). Though Junior said he watched the episode only once, it made him well known globally. After Australian pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith struck out Junior during the hurler's 2007 big league debut, Rowland-Smith said the only reason his friends Down Under knew who Griffey was "is because he was on 'The Simpsons.'"
11. Vote for Junior: By 1996, Griffey was so popular that Nike aired commercials featuring Junior campaigning for U.S. president. He wasn't elected because, at 26, he was nine years younger than the minimum age required to be president (or maybe it was because he chose the Mariner Moose as his running mate). Griffey did receive 50,045,065 All-Star votes during his career, or more than Bill Clinton received in winning the 1996 presidential election.
12. Goin' downtown: Junior remains so beloved he was featured in Macklemore's recent hit video, "Downtown.'' Of course, Macklemore is a Seattleite who grew up a passionate fan of the Mariners and Griffey (one of the rapper's early songs, "Niehaus," is a tribute to the team's late broadcaster). In addition to riding a moped in the video, Griffey catches a fish at Pike Place Market in the heart of Seattle's downtown. He is smiling and wearing a 1989 Mariners cap, duplicating that 1989 Upper Deck card.
13. Behind the smile: Former Mariners coach John McLaren says three players who stuck out in his mind because of their happy-go-lucky demeanor were Kirby Puckett, Dave Henderson and Griffey. "They were high-energy guys who always had smiles on their faces and the other players would feed off them," McLaren said. "And it's tragic two of them aren't with us.'' While Griffey was known for his grin, he wasn't always all smiles off the field. Griffey, then just 17, was depressed and overwhelmed after his 1987 season in the minors, he later told reporter Bob Finnegan, and attempted to commit suicide by swallowing more than 200 aspirin. He was taken to the hospital in Ohio, where he had his stomach pumped. "Don't ever try to commit suicide,'' he said. "I am living proof how stupid it is.''
14. The amazing Spider-Man: One of the greatest center fielders ever, Griffey won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1990-99. He famously robbed Jesse Barfield of a home run at Yankee Stadium, but perhaps his most remarkable catch was the grab above in 1991, when he leaped up against the wall and ever so briefly stuck there like Spider-Man. He duplicated that effort in 1995 with a catch that, while equally spectacular, also broke his wrist and forced him to miss 73 games. Fortunately for Seattle, the web-slinger came back.
15. The Comeback Kid: When that catch broke Junior's wrist in late May of 1995, the Mariners were 3½ games out of first. When he returned in mid-August, they were 12½ games back. Griffey's return, which included a walk-off home run against the Yankees, helped fuel one of baseball's greatest comebacks as the Mariners rallied to win the AL West and make their first postseason appearance.
16. The slide seen 'round the world: Griffey homered three times in the first two games of the 1995 AL Division Series, but Seattle still lost both. Nonetheless, the Mariners came back to win the series. And of all Griffey's career feats, the most replayed is when he raced from first to home on Edgar Martinez's double, sliding in safely to beat the Yankees 6-5 in the bottom of the 11th to win the ALDS. Twenty years later, the Mariners still often show that highlight. Then again, they haven't had any moments to match it.
17. Ernie Banks could feel his pain: The Mariners lost to Cleveland in the 1995 ALCS that year and still haven't reached the World Series. Neither did Griffey. He played 2,671 games, but never in the Fall Classic. Only Rafael Palmeiro played more games (2,831) without reaching a World Series. But at least Griffey will be able to say he's going to the Hall of Fame.
18. The contractor: The Mariners constantly threatened to move from Seattle in the late '80s and early '90s -- especially in 1995, when a ballot measure for a new stadium was shut down by King County voters. But the team's amazing comeback created such passion that the Washington state legislature quickly approved an alternate means of funding a new stadium. Known as "The House That Griffey Built,'' Safeco Field opened midway through the 1999 season. There was just one problem with his fancy new home ...
19. Powerless in Seattle: Because of its large dimensions and the cool, marine air that blows in and creates havoc for hitters, Safeco Field was not Junior's favorite place to bat. His disdain for the field started during its construction, when he and several teammates took batting practice one day. Safeco remains one of baseball's most pitcher-friendly parks. In spite of all that, moving into Safeco didn't cause a drastic change to Griffey's power numbers. He hit 13 home runs in 37 games at the Kingdome in 1999, and 14 homers in 42 games at Safeco after the Mariners moved there.
20. The Cincinnati Kid: In addition to not loving Safeco, Griffey was determined to be closer to his family, so he asked to be traded to the Reds after the 1999 season. The trade turned out better for Seattle (who got Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer in return) than for Griffey, whose career went into decline because of injuries and age. He hit 40 homers his first year in Cincinnati but never came close again. After making the All-Star team every year in the '90s, Griffey did so only three times in nine seasons with the Reds. He also missed more than 400 games and received an MVP vote only once (finishing 24th in 2005) during his Cincy tenure. At the 2008 trade deadline, the Reds dealt him to the White Sox for the legendary Nick Masset and Danny Richar.
21. The heart of Seattle: While Mariners fans felt bitter toward Griffey for demanding the trade, all was forgiven when he finally returned to Seattle with the Reds for a 2007 series. Overwhelmed by hearing 46,000 fans thunderously cheer him each game, Junior said, "I think I owe it to myself and the people of Seattle to retire as a Mariner.'' He did, re-signing with Seattle in 2009. Griffey hit 19 home runs with a .735 OPS that season and helped lift the Mariners to 85 wins. He was so revered that after the final game, his teammates carried him off the field.
22. Sleeping in Seattle: Griffey decided to play one final season in 2010, which did not go well. Limited by knee injuries and age, he hit just .184 with no homers in 108 plate appearances. He often was not in the lineup, including once when he was unavailable to pinch hit because he reportedly fell asleep in the clubhouse.
Which brings us to ...
23. Driving off, out of the sunset: Frustrated that he was unable to produce like he used to, Junior abruptly quit on June 2, 2010, in the middle of a series with the Twins. He didn't inform the Mariners until he was already on the road, and drove all the way from Seattle to his Florida home. (Someone partially broke the news after seeing him filling up at a gas station in Montana.) Griffey drove so intently that Torii Hunter said he received a phone call from him the next day while Junior was passing somewhere near Kansas City, more than 1,500 miles from Seattle.
24. Looking backward: So after all that, what cap will Griffey wear on his Hall of Fame plaque? Based on the above, it obviously should be the Mariners. But it might be fitting to have him wear whatever cap backward. After all, Griffey so popularized the backward-cap look that when Seattle inducted him into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Aug. 10, 2013, the players wore their caps backward in his honor. Buck Showalter, then manager of the Yankees, ripped Griffey two decades ago, saying that wearing a cap backward showed "a lack of respect for the game.''
Buck was wrong about that. Griffey respected the game, and the game will pay that respect back with his near certain election to the Hall of Fame.
And regardless of what they write on his plaque, the folks in Cooperstown should be sure there's a smile on his face.