There are a select few athletes, usually never more than a few, in a sport’s history who have the perfect form required for that sport. Ray Allen’s jump shot, for instance, is the most technically perfect shooting form in basketball, and when you see an athlete with this perfect form it’s a beautiful thing. Ken Griffey, Jr. is one of those athletes. The best young player of his generation, he is blessed with possibly the most perfect swing in baseball history. And tonight he hit his 600th home run, joining only three other players (Ruth, Aaron, and Mays) who have ever done that without steroids.
It’s been such a strange thing as a baseball fan to watch Griffey over the years. He came into the league as this kid who did everything better and had more fun while doing it than anyone else, and as he set multiple records as the youngest player to reach certain milestones, it was obvious he was an exceptional player. The kind that doesn’t come around often. And then he started to get hurt after his trade to Cincinnati and nobody could understand why. Nobody knew what was happening as players like Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire hit all their home runs while Griffey kept getting injured. Instead of being the sure thing to reach 800 home runs, Griffey became just another player, lumped in with Mark Prior as players who are too fragile.
But now we know that Griffey played the game clean, the way it’s supposed to be played, and he couldn’t recover from his injuries like players on steroids could. And Griffey is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee while Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire may never get in. Griffey did it the right way, and as a baseball fan it’s a special thing to see him get to 600 home runs. He has come to represent the antithesis of this steroid era, the player who loved the game and played clean the whole time. He is what is good about baseball, and the reason that little kids join Little League teams and go out to play on Saturday mornings on dusty fields, hoping that maybe one day they can get to the Major Leagues as a 19-year-old rookie, all smiles with his hat worn backwards, showing everyone the most perfect swing in the game.
Congratulations, Kid, and thanks.