When you come up to a team and see people like Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, you have to be a little awed. You ask yourself, 'what am I doing here? But I remember what my brother Bill used to say all the time, 'Kenny, when you walk out there do your thing, remember you're as good as anybody else' and I've always felt that way.
- Ken Griffey
The third of three baseball legends to hail from Donora, Pennsylvania, Ken Griffey followed all-time great Stan Musial and preceded his son, Ken Griffey, Jr. in the annals of baseball stars born in the small Pennsylvania town. A late round draft pick by the Reds in 1969, Griffey worked his way steadily through the Reds' Minor League system before breaking into the star-laden Reds clubs of the decade in 1973. It wasn't until 1975 that Griffey became a starter on the club when he emerged as the club's starting right fielder and would forever after be known as one of the "Great 8", the moniker affixed to the Big Red Machine's starting eight position players.
The fleet-footed Griffey hit .305 in his first full season as a starting player, the first of five .300-plus seasons he would enjoy in a Reds uniform. Griffey also recorded a .391 on-base-percentage in 1975, serving a crucial top -of -lineup role as a table setter for the Machine's middle-of -the order bats. The Reds surged to the best record in baseball in 1975, winning a franchise record 108 games en route to the club's first World Series victory since 1940.
The Reds repeated as World Champions in 1976 and Griffey advanced the cause with a career season. He engaged in a season-long race for the National League batting championship, a title he lost by a single point on the season's last day. In addition to a career-best .336 batting average, Griffey also set career highs in on-base-percentage (.401), stolen bases (34) and hits (189) and earned the first of his three All-Star game selections.
Griffey continued to perform at an All-Star level through the end of the decade and into the next, as his .311 batting average paced the 1981 Reds club that finished with baseball's best overall record but was denied a postseason berth due to the split-season playoff format owner's adopted as a result of the player's strike. The 1981 season proved to be the last hurrah for the last vestiges of the Big Red Machine as Reds ownership initiated a significant player turnover that included the trade of soon-to-be free agent Griffey to the New York Yankees.
After six-plus solid seasons with the Yankees and Atlanta Braves, Griffey returned to the Reds late in the 1988 season where he became a respected elder statesman on a young and talented club that was very close to returning to the championship form to which Reds fans had grown so accustomed over the previous decade. The breakthrough season arrived in 1990 when the Reds remained in first place every day throughout the season and won the club's first World Championship since 1976. Griffey was reserve player on the '90 club for most of the season until roster demands resulted in his release in August. His teammates were incensed over the decision to let go of the player they had come to call "Gramps" and showed their respect for him by awarding him a full World Series share despite his early departure from the club. Disappointed though Griffey was by his release, these feelings were greatly tempered when he signed with the Seattle Mariners and fulfilled his dream of actually playing with his son in the Major Leagues. Griffey, Jr. had debuted with Seattle the year before and in 1990 was in the midst of the first All-Star season of his illustrious career. On September 14, 1990, the Griffeys became the first father/son duo to homer in the same game.
Griffey, Sr. retired as a player following the 1991 season. He returned to the Reds organization as a coach in 1997 and served in this capacity until 2001 when he took a front office position. In 2010, Griffey was named the hitting coach of the Reds' Single A Minor League affiliate in Dayton, OH.
Elected to the Reds Hall of Fame in 2004, Griffey is the only player in Reds history to play for three Reds World Champion teams.