NEW YORK (WFAN) — Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t like the New York Yankees. Never has, never will.
The former Seattle Mariners star told anyone who would listen that he’d never sign in the Bronx, even though he wouldn’t hit free agency until 2008, nearly 20 years into his big-league career. It all stemmed from late Yankees manager Billy Martin’s treatment of his father, and one clubhouse incident in particular.
“(Martin) had someone approach me and tell me to tell my two kids to be quiet,” Ken Griffey Sr. said Wednesday on WFAN’s Boomer & Carton show. “Junior was 11. And Junior happened to be standing outside the door, waiting to come into the locker room.”
The story has become part of Griffey lore. New York lost out on a player who would go on to hit 630 career home runs, simply because Martin couldn’t let go of a long-standing “grudge” from the 1976 World Series.
Griffey Sr., who played with the Yankees from 1982-86, said his famous son never even told his mother about the incident.
“With kids, you tell them when you first get in the locker room, ‘What you see here, what you say here, stays here,’ ” said Griffey Sr., whose Cincinnati Reds swept New York for the championship in ’76. “And that stayed right there. He never said a word.”
Griffey Jr. was drafted in 1987, debuted two years later and signed a series of lucrative contract extensions, delaying free agency until 2008. Speculation surrounded the Yankees whenever Junior’s contracts were due to expire — as so often happens in the Bronx — but the outfielder was always quick to shoot them down.
“He never forgot,” Griffey Sr. said. “He had told them up front he was not coming.”
And he wasn’t shy about it.
As a member of the Reds in 2008, Griffey Jr. said he wasn’t looking forward to a stop at the soon-to-be-demolished old Yankee Stadium: “My favorite Yankee Stadium memory? It’s leaving Yankee Stadium.”
Griffey Jr. will be Hall of Fame eligible in 2016. His aversion to the Bombers likely cost him a ring — or more — as he retired as one of the greatest players to never win a World Series title.
“See, a lot of people blame George (Steinbrenner),” Griffey Sr. said. “But it wasn’t George. (It was) Billy Martin.”
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