Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Donora, Washington County
Cincinnati Reds star outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. was born in Donora.
Ken Griffey, Jr. has been a major league baseball player since the age of 19, playing for both the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds. He has also appeared on television and in film, as well as written a few baseball-related books and a children's column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Ask Junior while he played for the Mariners. Griffey finds his roots in the town of Donora, Pennsylvania, where he was born, although he was raised in Ohio. He retired from baseball in 2010 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Ken Griffey, Jr. was born in 1969 in Donora, Pennsylvania. Both his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., and three-time MVP Stan Musial share this quaint birthplace. Early in his life, Griffey moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio. In his hometown of Cincinnati, Griffey shined as a left-handed little league pitcher and also excelled as a member of the Moeller High School football and baseball teams. Subsequently, Ken earned the distinction of being the first overall selection in the 1987 free agent draft; the Seattle Mariners offered Ken a minor league contract when he was just 17 years old. However, before his second season in the minors began, a severely unhappy Griffey ingested 200 aspirin tablets in the culmination of his battle with depression--a battle fought against homesickness and excessive professional competition. Ken made the incident public in hopes of helping troubled teens. Griffey triumphantly bounced back from his bout with depression and joined the Mariners for spring training in 1989. Against all expectations, Ken secured a prized spot on the opening day roster for the team. The momentous day also marked the first time a father and son played in the majors at the same time. In 1990, Griffey's father became a Mariner, clinching another impressive first for baseball--the first father-son pair on the same team lineup--and the Griffey men scored back-to-back home runs against the Angels. Ken's baseball career went soaring immediately and has yet to see a downward dive.
Griffey's major career achievements are extensive. A professional baseball player at just 17 and the youngest player in the majors at 19, Griffey went on to achieve many career distinctions as he climbed his way to the top: youngest player to start in an All-Star game, youngest since 1956 to produce 100 RBIs, youngest to hit his 350th, 400th, and 450th homers. Griffey's remarkable ability in hitting and fielding also led him to accrue numerous defensive player awards, Golden Glove awards, and various achievements in All-Star games. In 1997 Ken Griffey, Jr., became the ninth unanimous American League MVP winner, while leading his league in homeruns, runs-batted-in (RBIs), runs, total bases, and batting average. The previous year, Griffey had become the sport's highest paid player, signing in a four-year, $34 million contract with the Mariners at the age of 26. By the year 2000, his contract had expired and Griffey had accepted a trade to his hometown of Cincinnati to play for the Reds. Despite being hampered by injuries, Griffey continues to live and play as one of baseball's greatest.
Because of his sport's fame, Griffey has also become an icon of popular culture, appearing regularly in advertising, television, and film. Endorsement deals for Nike, Pizza Hut, General Mills, and Nintendo keep him occupied in the off-season. Notable roles in his acting career include television appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Simpsons, Medicine Ball, and Harry and the Hendersons and a supporting role in the film Little Big League.
Griffey has also become a writer, penning an autobiography called Griffey on Griffey, in 1997, and a series of short books on hitting, fielding, and other baseball-related topics. His autobiography contains a revealing collection of personal photos: Griffey playing cards in the locker room before a game, meeting with a Nike representative to discuss designs for the shoes that bear his name, relaxing on the golf course, in the outfield with his father when they became the first father and son to play on the same team, and at home with his wife and daughter. Another link to the literary world was Griffey's weekly Seattle Post-Intelligencer column, Ask Junior, while he was living and playing baseball in the city. In this feature, local children wrote in to the newspaper with questions for Griffey, who collected and organized his replies each week in the youth-directed column. As both a performer and a writer, Ken Griffey has found still more fame and fortune.
After being traded to the White Sox and returning back to the Reds, Griffey retired in 2010. As of February 2011, he is working with the Mariners as a special consultant. Ken Griffey, Jr., currently lives in Issaquah, Washington, with his wife Melissa and their children, son Trey Kenneth, born January 19, 1994, and daughter Taryn Kennedy, born October 21, 1995.
Ask Junior. Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Griffey on Griffey. New York: Collins Publishers, 1997.
Griffey on Hitting. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Griffey on Fielding. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Boyle, Tim. The Most Valuable Players. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003.
Egan, Terry, Stan Friedman, and Mike Levine. The Good Guys of Baseball. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997.
Kisseloff, Jeff. Who is Baseball's Greatest Hitter? New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000.