As we witnessed last night when Prince vacated the thrown in the first round, winning three is not easy. That’s why only one guy has ever done it: Junior Griffey AKA The Natural AKA The Kid. Not only did he win it more than anyone ever has (’94, ’98, ’99), but he did it with his hat to the back (for the 2nd and 3rd) and the sweetest swing you ever did see. He made it look easy, and more importantly, he made it look good; that’s why he’s flying across the top of this page, and that’s why we’re going to take a look back at Griffey’s Derby repertoire. We’ll kick it off 20 years ago, when the Kid became a household name, and show you his three winning sets through the 90s.
But first, the club:
The “Swingman” swung a Louisville C271 for his entire career. The C271 is one of the most popular turning models in baseball history, used by a wide variety of hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Brandon Phillips, and copied by every bat company you know. It is available in all different types of wood (quality and type). Griffey swung maple later in his career but in his hey-day it was Ash.
Any recollection of Griffey’s 1993 HR Derby gear is too deeply tangled in the interwebs to find anything on, but we do know that before Griffey had an exclusive shoe deal with Nike, he wore these:
Just your standard Nike Air black and white basketball inspired high-top. He was wearing these when he hit a Derby HR off the B&O Warehouse, 439 feet away.
Griffey became the first player to ever do it (Camden Yards opened for business in 1992), and 20 years later, less than 70 balls have bounced off the iconic building. We don’t know the model cleat, but I’m sure someone out there does. Help us out and I’ll make sure to credit you.
For gloves, you can see above that Griffey wore the Godfather of baseball gloves, the Franklin Pro Classic with “Junior” embroidered on the strap.
In Griffey’s first winning Derby at Three Rivers Stadium, the Pirates home before PNC Park, he wore a teal version of these Nike Airs:
As you can see in the photos, that was a white Nike Swoosh painted teal for the Mariners. According to a little research, supposedly Nike was making only black/white leather at that point—which, ya know, isn’t true based on the photo at the link below.
(I searched hard for a photo of these without a watermark, but this is the only one I could find.)
Maybe they were only producing colored leather for key opportunities like the All Star Game and Home Run Derby, or maybe the MLB were still being tight-asses and wouldn’t allow it (like David Stern VS the Jordan 1s), but the black/whites were pen-painted for the Mariners’ colors, that’s for sure.
Above is a pair of Griffey’s Rawlings numbered wristbands from ’94, and from that watermarked photo above, you can see he wore one for that Derby.
As you can see in the photo above, Junior wore a navy version of the Nike gloves you see below in the ’98 Derby. It was Griffey’s best Derby performance, where he swept 19 sad baseballs into the Mile High night, beating fellow 600 Club Member Jim Thome in a playoff. This would be Griffey’s second consecutive year leading the AL with 56 homers.
Looks like Nike would have stamped a Swoosh on Griffey’s forehead if they could have.
This was the only decent photo we could find of the Air Griffey Max III cleats that Junior wore in the ’98 Derby. Though you can’t get the cleats, the turfs/trainers might be available online if you hunt, but we didn’t find them anywhere at this time.
Fenway’s ’99 Derby might be best remembered for Mark McGwire’s Mass Turnpike hailstorm, but Griffey reached a new echelon with his third Derby crown. 1999 was also the year that Griffey’s Nike Swingman label, the baseball equivalent of Jordan’s Jumpman, showed up on his batting gloves. When Nike makes you into a logo, that’s as high as you can go as an athlete, period.
The gloves were impossible to find an image of, but here’s a pretty good look:
A compromise for Nike, who seemed unsure that the Swingman would carry the company message at that point, so they threw the Swoosh strap on just to hammer it home. Funny they would do that because that textured, breathable back is something we’re used to seeing on Franklin gloves, which, as we noted earlier, Griffey wore before the shoe deal. Maybe he asked for something more like those.
For cleats, Griffey wore the above Griffey Max 99 in a navy blue that you can see two photos up. This cleat isn’t available, but many different lifestyle shoes have been inspired by these. Check those out here and on eBay.
Despite the hardware, these cleats/turfs aren’t Griffey’s most celebrated by sneaker-heads. The Air Griffey Max 1 or the Nike Air Diamond Fury, which is what Griffey is wearing in WPW’s header and a shoe that has been redesigned as a trainer in several different colors.
The best idea though is probably just to cruise eBay’s selection, a cornucopia of Griffey swag.
See you guys later for the ASG. We got some good stuff on tap.