You never want to be that guy who allows back-to-back home runs. You especially don’t want to the one who allows a record-setting moonshot, then have to watch history celebrated at home plate.
When it came to California Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill, two at-bats against the Seattle Mariners placed him in elite company of “Pitchers On The Wrong End of Baseball History.”
Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. Together on Seattle Mariners
On September 14, 1990, the Angels and Mariners met at the tail-end of the MLB regular season. The AL West division rivals weren’t in contention, especially considering the Oakland Athletics and American League MVP Rickey Henderson won 103 games ? the most in baseball that year ? despite losing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
Just two weeks prior, the Mariners signed 40-year-old Ken Griffey Sr. At the tail end of his career, Seattle brought in Ken Sr. ? a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion with the Reds ? to play left field.
Griffey Sr.’s outfield running mate? His son, 20-year-old center fielder and future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. It was the first time in MLB history a father-son duo played on the same team, and in the same game.
Pops was the seventh-oldest player in baseball, while Junior was the youngest at the time, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. To fans, the decision to acquire Ken Sr. seemed like a publicity stunt. I mean, it had to be right? Years later, we would finally get the full story and it’s one that will make any parent’s heart ache.
When Ken Jr. was playing baseball in the Mariners minor league system, on a team in Bellingham, Wash., he was so distraught, homesick and depressed that he once made an attempt on his own life. Saddled with lofty expectations and playing far from his home, Ken Jr. needed someone to talk to. And that’s where Ken Sr. comes in. At every turn, Ken Sr. was there to commiserate, to support and help his son deal with the burden of baseball stardom. Their relationship was not always sunshine and rainbows, but now with his son inches away from the big leagues, Ken Sr. became his son’s rock.
That Friday night was just another September outing at Anaheim Stadium. That is, until something amazing happened for the only time in the long and storied history of America’s Pastime.
With dad hitting second behind 1990 Gold Glove winner Harold Reynolds, the elder Griffey clubbed his third home run of the year off McCaskill in the first inning. One batter later, Ken Jr. launched his 20th home run over the left-center field wall.
For the first time in Major League Baseball’s 117-year history, a father-son combo went back-to-back.
Griffeys Become First Father-Son Duo With Back-to-Back Home Runs
Griffey Sr. retired after the 1991 season. As for “The Kid,” he dominated baseball for the next two decades as one of the game’s greatest five-tool players, hitting 630 career home runs, reaching 13 All-Star games, winning 10 Gold Glove awards, seven Silver Sluggers, and being named AL MVP in 1997.
When Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, he recalled his father’s impact on his life:
“To my dad, who taught me how to play this game, but more importantly he taught me how to be a man. How to work hard, how to look at your self in the mirror each and every day, and not to worry about what other people are doing. See, baseball didn?t come easy for him. He was the 29th round pick and had to choose between football and baseball. And where he?s from in Donora, Pennsylvania, football is king. But I was born five months after his Senior year and he made a decision to play baseball to provide for his family, because that?s what men do. And I love you for that.”
For 41-straight years, “Griffey” showed up in an MLB box score. Outside of Bobby and Barry Bonds, no other father-son baseball players hold a candle to what the former Mariner outfielders accomplished in their pro careers.