The process of selecting the best to ever wear the #30 in Reds history began and ended in the same location. There was no doubt that Ken Griffey was going to be bestowed with the honor; it was just a matter of which one it would be.
Junior played his first six seasons in Cincinnati with the #30 emblazoned on his back, and brought back fond memories of the days of when there was another Griffey patrolling the outfield wearing that very same number. While their games were vastly different from one another, they shared the same joyous attitude and kindred spirit that endeared them to the fans for the majorities of both of their careers.
Senior wore the number for a total of 12 seasons, spanning two different stints with the club. The elder was much more of a poised hitter, not possessing his son’s extraordinary power to all fields. Griffey Sr. made his living off speed, and the consistency with which he produced while in the batters box.
Ultimately, the decision came down to the fact that we have already honored the younger Griffey for his achievements as #3, and giving him the #30 as well would seem to be overkill of sorts. With that said, we proudly announce Ken Griffey Sr. as the best to ever wear the #30 in Reds history.
Yet another member of the famed Big Red Machine claims the top spot. In fact, every single core member (Bench, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Rose, Foster, Geronimo and now, Griffey) has all laid claim as the best to ever wear their specific number in Reds history. For many, they could have been the best to ever wear it, period.
After serving as a young bench sub when the ’73 club fell short against the New York Mets, Griffey had gained invaluable experience for when it would be his time to shine. The 1975 season saw him as the everyday right fielder who batted over .300, rightfully lost amidst his awe-inspiring clubhouse mates.
His best season came the following year in 1976, when the eldest of the Griffey baseball factory came within just a few points of claiming the league’s batting title. On the final day of the season, he missed out on the opportunity after sitting out while Bill Madlock of the Chicago Cubs hummed out a four hit day. Still, Griffey had hit .336 for the season, as well as stealing a career-high 34 bases, in what would be the only season he would ever finish in the Top-10 of MVP balloting.
The downfall of the Big Red Machine following that season has been well chronicled, and Griffey was one of the few to stick around during the downfall. He was elected to two more All-Star games with the club, in 1977 and 1980, before they eventually shipped him off to the Evil Empire, the New York Yankees.
After spending parts of five seasons in New York, and parts of three seasons in Atlanta, Griffey Sr. found his way home for a last hoorah. As most often, the last journey before the sunset did not go as well as planned, as Griffey had reached the age of 40 and his body was becoming ravished with injuries more and more by the day. He saw time at both corner outfield spots, as well as first base.
Disappointingly enough for him, he never got to see out the conclusion of the 1990 “wire-to-wire” championship run as he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners after hitting a putrid .206 for the club. As satisfying as an additional ring may have been to Griffey, the potential of joining his son in the same outfield may have outweighed any hurt feelings about the additional jewelry.
Seemingly reinvigorated, Griffey Sr. went on a torrid pace at the end of the 1990 season, batting .377 and becoming the first ever father-son combo to hit back-to-back home runs in Major League Baseball history.
In what may someday come as an interesting twist, the #30 has yet to be retired by the Reds. A proposal of retiring the number to honor both Griffey’s may not be too far off. The idea may be the first of its kind, but what both Ken Sr. and Ken Jr. provided to the game was something never seen before. They lived out the dream that ever father has for their son; and that every son has with their father, it just so happens that they got to do it on the sport’s grandest stage.
Ken Griffey Sr. is the final member of the Big Red Machine to be given his place as the best to ever wear the number in Reds history. His contribution to the club cannot be measured purely by statistics, as the great teams never can. The Griffey family as a whole has provided an unbelievable level of talent and grace to the game, and will always be able to call Cincinnati home.