Griffey Shares Historic Moment With Wife, And 30,813 Fans
Melissa Griffey had to look twice.
"I thought, `What's he doing? Waving? Oh yeah, that's for me. Hi Honey.' "
As Ken Griffey Jr. crossed home plate in the seventh inning last night, he gave a subtle `that's for you' wave to his young wife, sitting 13 rows back in the Kingdome's 100 level. As far as she could remember, he has hardly ever done that.
It was as intimate a connection as you will see in a domed stadium. On this night, however, 30,813 others wanted to horn in on their love affair.
The Kingdome crowd had just witnessed big-league history - Junior hit a home run for the eighth consecutive game - and the kid received a one-minute standing ovation. The one that tied the record shared by Dale Long and Don Mattingly was a 404-foot rocket shot against the third-deck facade, just inside the foul pole in right field.
The gathering would not let this moment pass quickly into time. They clapped and they stomped - even during four pitches to subsequent batter Jay Buhner - until Junior finally connected with them. He stepped out of the dugout and briefly waved his cap. That calmed down everything but the goose bumps.
Now again, for at least one more game, Melissa, four months pregnant with their first child, will have to share her husband with an adoring public. Griffey will try to establish the record tonight against Twins starter Scott Erickson.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he did it," Buhner said. "Nothing surprises me with Junior. I think he feels so comfortable up there; he's so focused and mentally strong right now."
The Mariners lost this game, 5-1, dropping them 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the American League West. But the players danced lightly over that disappointment. When you witness a player touched by magic, a pennant race becomes so ordinary.
"Like Michael Jordan says, when he's hot the hoop is huge," pitcher Erik Hanson said. "To Junior right now, the ball must look like a beachball."
What he saw in the seventh from Twins pitcher Willie Banks was a first-pitch, eye-level fastball, on the outside part of the plate.
"I tried to sneak a fastball by him, then go with a changeup. He just tomahawked it," Banks said. "Now the pressure is on the next pitcher. I'm out of here with a win."
Erickson said he doesn't talk to the press the day before he pitches. Griffey said he doesn't want to talk until the streak ends.
Banks offered his perspective.
"Scott should just be himself and pitch the way Scott can pitch," he said. "Griffey will probably have a worse time with him than with me because Scott's ball moves a lot more than mine.
"He'll probably have his hands full if Scott keeps the ball down."
It's Erickson who has had problems in the past with Griffey, who is 12 for 23 (.521) with one home run against him. That home run was May 9 in the Kingdome. It hit a speaker in right field and landed in the second deck.
"He almost hit the speaker tonight," said Twins right fielder Kirby Puckett. "I could have caught it if it did."
Wouldn't that have been something - Griffey's streak stopped by a speaker?
"The Kid has a flair for the dramatic, doesn't he?" Puckett said. "His next-to-last at-bat and he does it again. He's a big-league player, man. He's in some select company now.
"He just goes up and does it, like it's no big deal."
----------------------------------------------- Home-run streaks
Players with homers in eight consecutive games with total home runs during streak (date-HR breakdown where available):
-- 8 - Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle, 1993, July 20-25, July 27-28, 8 home runs.
-- 8 - Don Mattingly, New York, 1987, July 8 (2), July 9-12, July 16 (2), July 17-18, 10 home runs.
-- 8 - Dale Long, Pittsburgh, 1956, May 19, May 20 (1st and 2nd games), May 22-23, May 25-26, May 28, 8 home runs.
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