Ken Griffey Jr. with the Bellingham Mariners (Trading Card Database)

June 17, 1987: Mariners prospect Ken Griffey Jr. hits his first professional home run in Everett

This article was written by Jake Rinloan

Ken Griffey Jr. with the Bellingham Mariners (Trading Card Database)In 1987, Ken “The Kid” Griffey Jr. truly was a kid: Just 17 years old, he was beginning his pro baseball career with the Bellingham (Washington) Mariners of the Northwest League.

The first half of June 1987 was undoubtedly a whirlwind for the teenager, who had recently graduated from Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. On June 2 he was selected by the Seattle Mariners as the first overall pick in baseball’s amateur draft. He traveled across the country and worked out with the Mariners in Seattle for a couple of days, including taking batting practice in front of fans at the Kingdome,1 before reporting to Seattle’s short-season Class A affiliate, the Bellingham “Baby M’s.”2 Griffey played his first professional game on June 16 in Bellingham and got his first professional hit the next day in Everett, Washington.

Griffey’s father, Ken Griffey Sr., had played for the Atlanta Braves in 1987. Griffey Sr. was a three-time National League All-Star, a two-time World Series champion as a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine of the 1970s, and the Most Valuable Player of the 1980 All-Star Game.3 Griffey Jr.’s childhood was one a lot of kids playing Wiffle Ball would envy; he interacted with legendary players like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose, along with other big leaguers, at an early age.4

Although Griffey Jr. played Connie Mack baseball,5 he did not play high-school baseball during his first two years at Moeller High. The fact that he reached the majors just three years after his high-school debut helps explain why Griffey Jr. has been nicknamed “The Natural,” along with “Junior” and “The Kid.” In his senior year of high school, he batted .478, a school record, with 7 homers and 26 RBIs.6

In 1987 Griffey Jr. was the first son of a major leaguer to be selected number one in the draft.7

“He’s got the potential to be another Dave Parker,” said Roger Jongewaard, Seattle’s scouting director. “If he develops the way we think he can, he should hit between 25 and 30 home runs every year.”8  

“The first time I saw him, he was a 15-year-old playing baseball in Cincinnati,” said Mariner scout Tom Mooney. “He was impressive then. You could tell he was a very polished young man, and I think a lot of it was the result of being around his dad and other major league players.”9

The Mariners began play as an American League expansion franchise in 1977. Through 1986, their best year had been 1982 (76 wins, .469 winning percentage and a fourth-place finish in the seven-team AL West Division). After 10 years of losing, Mariners fans were hungry for a winning season. Additionally, the team had never had a bona fide superstar,10 but Griffey Jr. offered hope.

On June 16 the Bellingham Mariners hosted the Everett Giants, the Northwest League’s San Francisco Giants affiliate, in the 1987 season opener for both teams. A standing-room-only crowd of 2,516 cheered for Griffey. Five months from his 18th birthday, he was nearly four years younger than the league’s average age.11

In his first pro plate appearance, Griffey walked. He went 0-for-4 with three groundouts and a strikeout. He said afterward that he had never gone 0-for-4 before. Bellingham lost to Everett, 5-4.12   

“I was a little bit disappointed,” Griffey said. “I wish I would have gotten a hit, but those days will be here.”13  

Later, he said, “I talked to my dad and he said, ‘Just go out and have fun.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”14

A day later, the home-and-away series moved to Everett for the second of four games. The 1987 season was the 40th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. Throughout baseball, clubs were paying tribute to Robinson. A new hand-operated scoreboard was installed at Everett Memorial Stadium for the ’87 season that was a scaled-down version of the distinctive Brooklyn Dodgers scoreboard at Ebbets Field.15

An overflow crowd of 3,122 poured into the ballpark.16 Everett is only 28 miles north of downtown Seattle and Mariners fans came to get a first look at their team’s number-one draft pick. As it turned out, the Bellingham and Everett rosters included a total of 10 future major-league players. Three of them started on June 17: center fielder Griffey and second baseman Todd Haney for Bellingham, and Gil Heredia, the starting pitcher for Everett. Bellingham started four high-school-aged players, including Griffey.17 Ticket prices for Everett’s home opener were $4.50 for chair-backed box seats; $3.25 general admission; and $2.25 for children 12 and under. Babies in arms came in free.18

Everett scored a run in each of the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Griffey Jr. stepped into the batter’s box to face Heredia, a 21-year-old University of Arizona product whom the Giants had selected in the ninth round of the June draft. Two Mariners were on base. Griffey took a ball.

With the count 1-and-0, Griffey hit Heredia’s next pitch to left for a three-run, opposite-field homer to tie the game, 3-3. Even though Griffey was playing for the visiting team, the crowd gave him an ovation for his first professional hit. Certainly, many of the fans were hoping to see more home runs from him in future years with the Seattle Mariners.19

“All I wanted to do was drive the ball somewhere,” Griffey said. “I had no idea that it was going to go out. It surprised me.”20

“It was nice to see him get his first hit,” said Bellingham’s Rick Sweet, a former Seattle Mariner who was in the first season of a minor-league managing career that as of 2024 had spanned nearly four decades and more than 2,200 wins. “He’d been struggling with the off-speed stuff and we just told him to sit back and wait. He’ll get his hits.”21 

The next batter for Bellingham was Steve Hisey, Seattle’s 35th-round pick from UCLA. Hisey went deep to left-center with a solo homer, giving Bellingham the lead, 4-3.22 Bellingham added another run in the fifth to take a two-run lead. The bottom of the fifth proved to be devastating for the Baby M’s: Everett scored four runs to take a 7-5 lead. Although Bellingham was able to tack on another run in the sixth, Everett prevailed with a 7-6 victory.23  

Along with Griffey, offensive stars included Bellingham’s designated hitter, Joe Kemp, who went 4-for-4 with two RBIs, and Everett’s left fielder, Rich Aldrete, with a 3-for-4 showing and three RBIs.24

Heredia pitched five innings and was the winning pitcher for the Giants. The Mariners’ starting pitcher, Steve Bieksha,25 went four innings and reliever Gary Cameron26 took the loss. Everett’s Bill Bluhm27 was awarded the save for a shutdown eighth and ninth, getting three strikeouts and holding Bellingham hitless.28

It was a big week for the Griffey family. On June 16, the day before Griffey Jr.’s first professional hit, Ken Griffey Sr. also hit a three-run home run, also in the fourth inning, while playing for the Atlanta Braves against the San Francisco Giants. This was the first of several “like-father-like-son” moments during their pro careers.

After his first pro home run, Griffey Jr. went on to homer in his next two games. Griffey Sr. hit home runs for the Braves on June 19 and 20. In a five-day span, each hit three home runs for a Griffey family power surge of six homers.

In his first pro season, in 54 games with Bellingham, Griffey Jr. batted .313 with a slugging average of .604, 14 home runs, 40 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. He was named to the Northwest League’s All-Star team. Coincidentally, Ken Griffey Sr. also hit 14 home runs for the Braves that season.

Bellingham finished the season last in its division with a 30-46 record. Everett won the division with a 49-26 record and lost the Northwest League championship to Spokane, two games to one.

Early in his first pro season, regarding his father, Griffey Jr. said, “I’d like to play with him [in] at least one game before he retires. That’s the only dream I have right now. That, and to make it. That’s it.”29

His dream came true. In August 1990 Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. became the first father and son to play on the same major-league team, with Griffey Jr. playing center field and his father playing next to him in left. During their first game together, they celebrated by hitting back-to-back singles in the bottom of the first. Two weeks later they hit back-to-back home runs in Anaheim. The father-son tandem played 51 games together as Seattle Mariners before Griffey Sr. retired in 1991 at age 41. 


Author’s Note

I attended this game with friends and family. We sat on the first-base side. In addition to the Ebbets Field-like scoreboard, I remember a large black-and-white sign with “Jackie Robinson” and his number “42” on the outfield wall as part of the season-long Jackie Robinson tribute.

From June 1987 to the present, when I described Griffey Jr.’s first professional hit to others, I always called it “a towering opposite-field home run.” In my research, I did not find any descriptions of the homer’s trajectory, but my recollection is it was a high, “towering” arc.

Although Gil Heredia surrendered the historic homer, he had a good record against Griffey in the majors. Their head-to-head stats show Griffey had 15 plate appearances against Heredia, who appeared in 267 major-league games in 10 seasons with four teams. Griffey walked three times, struck out three times, hit a single and a double, and batted .167 vs. Heredia.

In 1998, a historical marker was installed outside of Everett Memorial Stadium to commemorate Griffey Jr.’s first hit. The bronze plaque was installed in the approximate location where the home run touched down.30

Ken Griffey Jr. historical marker in Everett, Washington, was taken by Pat Filippone in 2015. Used by permission of Historical Marker Database (, J.J. Prats, editor and publisher.



The author thanks John Fredland, Kurt Blumenau, and Gary Belleville for their assistance. This article was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin. 


Sources and Photo Credits   

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and for general player, team, and season data. Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet do not provide box scores of minor-league games, so box scores from the Bellingham Herald and Everett Herald were referenced.

Image of card “1987 Bellingham Mariners #15, Ken Griffey Jr.” downloaded from the Trading Card Database.

Photo of the Ken Griffey Jr. historical marker in Everett, Washington, was taken by Pat Filippone in 2015. Used by permission of Historical Marker Database (, J.J. Prats, editor and publisher.



1 Larry Stone, “For Hall of Fame-Bound Ken Griffey, Jr., It All Started With the Swing,”, January 5, 2016. Accessed May 15, 2024.

2 Stephen Cohen, “From the P-I Archives: Rare Photos of Ken Griffey Jr.’s Early Career with the Mariners,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 17, 2016.

3 As of May 2024, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. are the only father-son pair who have been All-Star Game MVPs. (Griffey Jr. won this honor in 1992.)

4 Todd Milles, “Baseball Hall of Fame Induction: Ken Griffey Jr. – Scouts Saw Griffey, Even Just as a Teen, Was the Real Thing,” Bellingham Herald, July 19, 2016: B1.

5 Jim Street, “Griffey Has Tools to Build On,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 3, 1987: B2. Connie Mack Baseball is a youth baseball program, typically for ages 13-16, available in certain regions of the United States.

6 Milles, “Baseball Hall of Fame Induction: Ken Griffey Jr.” Others from Moeller High School who have played in the major leagues include Buddy Bell, David Bell, and Griffey Jr.’s fellow Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

7 Jim Street, “Griffey’s Son is No. 1,” The Sporting News, June 15, 1987: 22.

8 David Eskenazi, “Wayback Machine: Ken Griffey Jr., The Natural,”, August 6, 2013. Accessed March 31, 2024.

9 Street, “Griffey Has Tools to Build On.”

10 Eskenazi, “Wayback Machine: Ken Griffey Jr., The Natural.”

11 Griffey Jr. had a fairly brief minor-league career in Class A and Double A. He skipped Triple A and went straight to the majors in 1989. His only Triple-A appearance was for one game in 1995 on a rehab assignment. In 130 minor-league games, he had a .318 batting average and a .997 OPS, with 27 home runs and 49 stolen bases.  

12 Alan Lee, “Griffey Gets Cheers, but No Hits in Debut,” Seattle Times, June 17, 1987: G2.

13 Vince Bruun, “Massey Relief Job Helps Giants Win,” Everett Herald, June 17, 1987: C1.

14 John Lowry, “Ken Griffey Jr. Is Headed for Stardom,” Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, June 22, 1987: 6.

15 Charles Aweeka, “Play Ball! – Giants Hoping to Win with New Scoreboard, Enthusiastic Crowds,” Seattle Times, June 17, 1987: H1.

16 Kirby Arnold, “38th and Lombard – It May Be Hard to Find, but a Piece of History Lays … Behind the Left-Field Fence of Everett Memorial Stadium …” Everett Herald, June 17, 2007, Accessed May 2, 2024.

17 “Griffey Homers, but Bellingham Falls to Everett,” Bellingham Herald, June 18, 1987. Three members of the Bellingham lineup (Griffey Jr., catcher Chop Hoffman, and left fielder Tony Cayson) were 17 years old and one (shortstop Fausto Ramírez) was 18.

18 Bruun, “Massey Relief Job Helps Giants Win.”

19 Vince Bruun, “Everett Trims Bellingham in Home Opener,” Everett Herald, June 18, 1987: C1.

20 Bruun, “Everett Trims Bellingham in Home Opener.”

21 “Griffey Homers, but Bellingham Falls to Everett.”

22 Bruun, “Everett Trims Bellingham in Home Opener.”

23 Line score and box score, Everett Herald, June 18, 1987: C6.

24 Line score and box score.

25 Steve Bieksha was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 40th round of the 1987 amateur draft from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He played for Bellingham in 1987 and Class A Wausau (Midwest League) in 1988.

26 Gary Cameron was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the 1987 amateur draft from Salt Lake Community College. He played in five games for Bellingham in 1987.

27 Prior to pitching for Everett in 1987, Bill Bluhm was a position player and occasional pitcher for Los Angeles Dodgers Rookie League affiliates in 1985 and 1986. In 1988 he pitched for Class A Waterloo (Midwest League) and in 1989 he pitched and played as a position player for Class A Reno (California League). He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 33rd round of the 1985 amateur draft from the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California.

28 Line score and box score.

29 Scott Anderson, “Only A Minor Sensation – Griffey Gaining Confidence with Baby M’s,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 2, 1987: B1.

30 Kirby Arnold, “Griffey Career Retrospective: 24 Years of The Kid,” Everett Herald, September 15, 2010, Accessed May 2, 2024. 

Additional Stats

Everett Giants 7
Bellingham Mariners 6

Everett Memorial Stadium
Everett, WA

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