Ken Griffey Jr. Reveals the Source of his Hatred for the New York Yankees

Max Goodman

The New York Yankees have always had an aptitude for taking the game's biggest stars and putting them in pinstripes. When it comes to Ken Griffey Jr., however, it was a different story. 

The Hall of Fame outfielder has made his contempt toward the Yankees organization known in the past. In the documentary 'Junior' – which debuted on MLB Network on Sunday night, chronicling the legend's path from the son of a big leaguer to an icon – he revealed the source of that disdain. 

His father, Ken Griffey Sr., played 19 years in the Major Leagues, spending time with four different teams. During a dozen years in Cincinnati, Griffey was a part of the Reds ball club that swept the Yankees in the 1976 World Series. 

The moment that convinced Griffey Jr. he never wanted to play for New York, however, came when his dad was wearing pinstripes from 1982 to 1986.

"I came up to visit my dad. It was just me and him, got to go to [Yankee Stadium] early and I'm sitting in the dugout," the 50-year-old recalled. "A security guard comes over and says, 'Hey, George [Steinbrenner] doesn't want anybody in the dugout.

"My dad was like 'What? He's my son,'" The Kid explains, remembering how his father complied with the request, telling him to go to his locker in the clubhouse. As Junior left, however, his dad told him to "look at third base."

"It's Graig Nettles' son taking ground balls at third base," Griffey Jr. said.

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In the documentary, as the slugger told this story, the emotions he felt three decades ago in that moment were visible on his face. Finally, a smile crept across his lips. 

"At that time, my dad was 38 years old," Junior explained. "He was like, 'I ain't fighting this no more. I got someone a little younger and a little bit better.'"

Just a few years later, Griffey Jr. was the first overall selection in the 1987 MLB Draft out of high school. Two years after that, he was in the Major Leagues at just 19 years old, rapidly ascending to stardom with the Seattle Mariners. 

The documentary flashes forward to 1995, when Griffey Jr.'s Mariners were taking on the Yankees in the American League Division Series. While signing autographs, a voice from the crowd calls out, "come play for the Yankees, bro!"

"No," Junior replied instantly and emphatically. "If the Yankees were the last team ... if they were the only team that gave me a contract, I'd retire."

A buzz reverberated from the crowd as he continued to sign the baseball in his hand. 

"You don't believe me?" Griffey Jr. asked the fan. "You don't know me."

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Over Griffey Jr.'s 22-year stint in baseball, The Kid made 13 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Glove Awards, seven Silver Slugger Awards and was the recipient of the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player Award. He recorded 2,781 hits and mashed 630 home runs (leading the league four times in his career) before his retirement in 2010.

In the first playoff game of his career – in the ALDS in '95 – Griffey smoked two home runs at Yankee Stadium, dominating the team he was bred to despise. Seattle went on to win that series as Griffey Jr. hit .391 (9-for-23) with five homers and seven runs batted in.

That said, he never won another postseason series in his career. The Yankees won five World Series titles from the following year through the season when The Kid hung up his cleats. 

When asked about the Bronx Bombers, he confirmed that moment in the dugout in the Bronx was engrained in his mind from that day forward. His dad, even after playing for New York, taught him to always strive to beat the Yankees. 

"There's certain things that a dad drills into you as a kid that just sticks with you. That was one of them."

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