SEATTLE (AP) - The Seattle Mariners big weekend honoring former star Ken Griffey Jr. with his induction into the team's Hall of Fame got off to an ugly start.
Joe Saunders gave up a grand slam to former Seattle shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt as part of Milwaukee's five-run fifth inning, and the Brewers beat the Mariners 10-5 on Friday night.
Betancourt came back to haunt his former club. Betancourt's slam was his 13th homer of the season and he enjoyed every second of going deep against his former team. Betancourt drove the pitch from Joe Saunders out to left, walking and watching as he left the batter's box, then flipped his bat before excitedly running the bases. It was his sixth career grand slam.
Along with the slam, the Mariners committed three errors behind Saunders that led to five unearned runs in a sloppy performance to kick off one of Seattle's most anticipated weekends of the season because of Griffey's presence.
``I think he was getting a little tired there and walked a couple and the grand slam was hit,' acting Seattle manager Robby Thompson said. ``Not a good combination when you put together errors like that and he has to throw extra pitches.'
The ugly effort put a damper on a day that was all celebration up till the first pitch as Seattle honors the greatest player to ever wear a Mariners uniform.
Griffey will become the seventh inductee into the Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night. It'll be an emotional night for Griffey, but also for many fans and former teammates who were witness to arguably the best all-around player of his day.
The two-day celebration began on Friday when Griffey was lauded by former teammates and opponents during a luncheon on the field Friday. Current Mariners players Raul Ibanez, Franklin Gutierrez and Felix Hernandez sat on stage as part of the group honoring Griffey. During the 90 minute luncheon, Griffey looked uncomfortable at times receiving all the focus. But when he finally spoke, Griffey was calm and relaxed, cracking jokes about times in the clubhouse and his former teammates. Of the previous six inductees to the team's Hall of Fame, five are players, all of which played with Griffey and showed up to support their former teammate.
``I was nervous three weeks ago, I was nervous a month ago. I was nervous two months ago when they told me. I grew up in a household where it was a lot easier to talk about somebody else than talk about you,' Griffey said. ``My dad came home he'd always say `How did the team do?' `What did you do?' would always be the last question.
``Having this, I understand the honor that it brings. Am I nervous? Yes. It's a lot easier to be in center field and stand at home plate than to talk in front of thousands of people.'
If there ever was an induction to Seattle's Hall of Fame that goes without debate, it's Griffey.
Griffey spent 13 of his 22 seasons in the majors with the Mariners and was the face of the franchise for most of the 1990s. He was drafted by Seattle in 1987 with the No. 1 overall pick, made his debut at the major league level two years later and went on to have one of the finest careers in baseball history. Griffey finished with 630 home runs - sixth all-time - and was a 13-time All-Star and the 1997 American League MVP.
Griffey's arrival in Seattle immediate brought relevance to a franchise that earned little in its first decade of existence. He was a marketing magnet, known for his glowing smile and backward hat - which Griffey says was a product of having to wear his dad's hat that way as a kid and not a fashion statement. He won legions of fans with his style of play and the obvious fun he was having while being among the best in the game.
``This is just a prelude to your next venture, you're next stop,' former teammate Jay Buhner said. ``I just want to ... shut down Cooperstown with you.'
Notes: Justin Smoak hit his 12th homer of the season, a two-run shot, in the eighth inning for Seattle. ... Kyle Seager had a two-run single in the third inning, but also committed two errors. ... Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks will miss the rest of the season after an MRI revealed a torn left hamstring. Weeks was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday. ... Friday was Milwaukee's first game in Seattle since 1997.
The Associated Press News Service
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