As much as the smile and the backwards cap, the good hits and the 630 home runs, the number 24 became synonymous with Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey picked it up after hitting 24 home runs in one season between his high school and summer baseball teams, and he carried it with him for 13 seasons with the Mariners.
“It’s all about numbers in baseball. Some of the biggest players in sports wore 24. It wasn’t planned, but definitely one of the things I asked for when I signed my first contract was to be able to wear 24,” Griffey said Friday. “It is extremely important. If you look at my first apartment in Seattle, it was 1124. My house number was 24606. There’s a lot of things that have to do with 24.”
Griffey is back in Seattle this weekend to watch the Mariners retire that famous 24. The retirement comes less than two weeks after he became the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mariners. . The number will be retired first by the Mariners and then by the entire organization, not just the major league club. The entire team will wear 24 during training on Saturday, and then it will be put away forever.
Griffey was humbled by the honor when he spoke about it Friday, in part because his number will be placed alongside Jackie Robinson’s 42 — retired in all of baseball — as the only honorees at Safeco Stadium.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s sobering, because man, the number I’m going to have next to me is someone who basically sacrificed his life to get people to play, and that’s Jackie Robinson,” Griffey said. “It’s a strange feeling, for everything he’s done and allowing basically everyone to be able to play this sport. And I’ll be by his side, so I haven’t fully sunk in really.” AP