Before Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa rejuvenated baseball with their chase for home run history, and before Barry Bonds ultimately took, and now holds, the game’s single season title, Ken Griffey Jr. was dropping bombs. During an impressive 1997 season the “Kid” was chasing home run history leading his Seattle Mariners. Adding to the intrigue of the season was the battle with the Cardinal’s Mark McGwire. The two players were leading their respective teams although Seattle’s season was going far better than St. Louis’. Going into their games on September 22, 1997, Griffey was one home run behind McGwire. Things would change.
The end of the season was less than a week away, so every game was important. McGwire was traded to St. Louis from Oakland during midseason but in an alternate universe the two hitters could have battled head to head. In Oakland the A’s took an early 1-0 lead during the first inning which was the score going into the fourth inning. Griffey hit into a double play during his first at-bat so he was looking to make something happen. Laced up in his signature Nike Air Max Griffey III he stepped up to plate with no one on. On a 2-2 count Griffey turned on the pitch and blasted a line drive home run to tie up the ball game. Number 54 also tied McGwire for the major league lead.
With the help of his teammates the Mariners had a 3-1 lead when he came up to bat in the fifth inning. On a 1-1 count Griffey turned on another ball, cracking a deep, high home run. Number 55 not only gave him the major league lead, but was the most homers in the league since Roger Maris set the record in 1961. The visiting Seattle won the game 4-2 and clinched a tie for the American League West title. He would finish the season with 56 home runs tying him for seventh during that time, however McGwire finished with 58. Regardless, it would be a figure that would cap an impressive 1997 campaign in which he was an All-Star member, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner, and also league MVP.