While one might imagine that it isn’t uncommon for the first overall pick in a draft to go on to become a Hall of Famer, Wednesday night marked the first time the first overall pick was elected to be inducted to National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Ken Griffey Jr. was drafted #1 overall in the 1987 draft by the Mariners and went on to have what is now a Hall of Fame career. Likewise, one would not expect that someone drafted in the 62nd round of a draft would have the label “Hall of Famer,” yet Mike Piazza who was selected 1,390th by the Dodgers in 1988 was also elected Wednesday night.
Griffey represents is now not only the highest-drafted member to be elected to the Hall of Fame but by being named on 99.3% of the ballots (437 of 440), Griffey broke Tom Seaver’s record of 98.84%. Piazza, who garnered a respectable 83% of the votes, is the lowest drafted member to join the Hall of Fame.
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Speaking about both being elected and missing out on a unanimous vote by just three members, Griffey said, "I can't be upset at anybody, it's certainly an honor to be elected. To have the highest percentage is a shock. I don't think about it that way. The big thing is to get into the Hall of Fame. As long as you get in, that's what it is. I was really surprised it was so high."
Along with the benchmarks they set, Griffey and Piazza marked the first players at their positions to be voted in since the early 2000s. Kirby Puckett was the last centerfielder elected, in 2001 and Gary Carter was the last catcher elected in 2003.
Careers in Review
When it comes to looking at the careers of the two players there is no denying that either deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Griffey was drafted number one overall in 1987 and went on to become a 13-time All-Star along with the AL MVP award in 1997. Along with being a four-time American League home run champion, Griffey sits at 6th all-time with 630 homers. Not only behind the plate but Griffey won 10 Gold Glove awards.
Piazza is regarded as one of the most respected and best-hitting catchers of all-time. While he is known for his time with Dodgers and the Mets, he also spent time with the Padres and the Athletics.
Amongst the four teams the 12-time All-Star had an impressive career during which he set the record for most home runs as a catcher, with 397 of his 427 home runs coming when he was playing behind the plate. Along with this, he hit 1,335 RBIs and finished his career with a .308 batting average. Like Griffey, Piazza was also impressive behind the plate as during his career he led the NL in putouts four times and assists, twice.
With all Hall of Fame careers come plenty memorable moments, remembered by fans and players alike. For Piazza and Griffey though some stick out more than others.
In Game Five of the 1995 ALDS, the Mariners needed a run to tie and two to win, to beat the Yankees. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Edgar Martinez came up with Joey Cora on third and Ken Griffey Jr. on first. Martinez smacked the ball to left field and Joey Cora tied the game, scoring easily.
Griffey was determined to end the game and turned on the jets to go from first to home, sliding into home safely, just seconds before he would have been called out. It was this kind of hustle and determination that helped Griffey have the career that he did.
The city of New York came to standstill after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, 10 days later baseball resumed as the Mets took on the Braves. In what will be remembered for ages, it was one of the defining moments of Piazza’s career as he hit a two-run home in the eighth inning to give the Mets a 3-2 lead over the Braves.
The Mets would go on to win and Piazza became even more of a fan favorite. The home run, while one of many, is one that lifted the spirits of many New Yorkers. It was clutch moments like these, where Piazza showed his true power, which helped him have the Hall of Fame career.
There is no denying that both Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. are more than deserving of these elections and we congratulate both of them on this honor.