Reds Hall of Fame induction puts finishing touches on Griffey#039;s career

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 13, 2004

CINCINNATI - Outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. wanted to join his Big Red Machine teammates in the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame someday, putting the finishing touch on his career.

He finally made it on Thursday, along with the general manager who made it all possible.

Griffey, former general manager Bob Howsam and 19th century pitcher Will White will be inducted into the team's hall of fame on Aug. 29 before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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''It's an accomplishment I didn't think I'd ever achieve, but I was hoping I'd get into the Reds' Hall of Fame,'' Griffey said, in a conference call from Orlando, Fla. ''I'm excited to be going in with Mr. Howsam.''

They kept low profiles while such stars as Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez led Cincinnati to World Series championships in 1975-76. Their important roles in those championships will be recognized this summer.

Griffey, 54, was drafted by the Reds in 1969 and became a starter in 1975, batting .305 while Cincinnati won the first of those two consecutive titles. He hit .336 in 1976, finishing second in the National League.

He was a three-time All-Star, but never made it into the upper echelon of stars on those talent-laden teams assembled by Howsam.

''I never said too much about too many things,'' Griffey said. ''I just did my job and tried to do it to the best of my ability consistently.''

He played in the majors for 19 years, finishing his career in Seattle with son Ken Jr., who is now the Reds' center fielder. He also was a Reds coach for five seasons, most recently in 2001, and has been a special assistant the last two years.

Howsam, 76, is considered one of the most important front-office figures in franchise history. He presided over the team's move to Riverfront Stadium in 1970, hired Sparky Anderson as manager and made the trades that formed one of baseball's most renowned teams.

Bench, Perez, Morgan and Anderson are in baseball's Hall of Fame. Rose is barred by his lifetime ban for gambling.

''From what I've seen, I think the Big Red Machine could have been the greatest ballclub ever,'' Howsam said Thursday. ''I know the Yankees compared in the 1920s. We had such great balance.''

Under Howsam's leadership, the small-market Reds became one of baseball's model franchises. He was general manager from 1967-78, and also ran the team as president and chief operating officer from 1973-78, when he retired.

He traded popular first baseman Lee May to Houston as part of a six-player deal in November 1971 that brought Morgan and Jack Billingham to the Reds, setting them on course to become a dominant team in the era of artificial turf.

''He meant a lot to this franchise,'' Griffey said. ''He's the one that kind of cemented everything together in terms of getting the players. Those eight guys who were on the field day in and day out - he was the one that orchestrated that.''

At management's urging, he returned as general manager after the franchise fell upon hard times in the 1980s. He brought Rose back to town as player-manager in 1984, and retired again after Marge Schott bought the team and took control a year later.

Howsam still follows baseball closely and is troubled by the way big-market teams can outspend the smaller markets many times over. He also is concerned by the way ticket prices have risen, making it difficult for families to attend games.

''That's what I would be fighting against, the high price they're charging them for tickets,'' Howsam said. ''What really bothers me, frankly, is they raise their tickets, then all that money goes to paying the players. I want the players to be well-paid - they deserve it, they're the show. The thing that's really bothering me is it's getting so high that it's ridiculous. They're just going to have to get down to earth.''

White played for Cincinnati from 1878-80 and again from 1882-86. He is the franchise's career leader in various pitching categories, including wins (227), losses (163), complete games (389) and ERA (2.25).