clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


As a teenager, Ken Griffey Jr. seemed to have it made. He was the eldest son in a well-to-do family, talented enough to be picked first in baseball's amateur draft.

But Griffey Jr., now an All-Star outfielder with the Seattle Mariners, said growing up wasn't easy. In fact, he said, life was so bad he tried to kill himself at age 17."It seemed like everyone was yelling at me in baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there," he recalled. "I got depressed. I got angry. I didn't want to live."

In January 1988, Griffey said he swallowed 277 aspirin by his own count and wound up in intensive care in Providence Hospital at Mount Airy, Ohio.

He thought about killing himself a couple of times, he said, "with my father's gun or something."

"The aspirin thing was the only time I acted," he said. "It was such a dumb thing."

Griffey recounted the incident in a recent interview with the Seattle Times, which published the story in Sunday's editions.

Griffey said he agreed to make the story public in the hope it might dissuade others from seeing suicide as a solution.

"Don't ever try to commit suicide," Griffey said he wants to tell kids. "I am living proof how stupid it is.'

Griffey, the son of 17-year major-league star Ken Griffey Sr., was the Mariners' first selection in June 1987. At 17, he was away from home the first time, spending his first year in pro ball with the Mariners farm team in Bellingham, Wash., and then the instructional league in Arizona.

In Bellingham, he said, he had run-ins with the teenage sons of the team bus driver. He said one of them called him a "nigger" and another looked for him with a gun.

When Griffey came home to Ohio that fall, his lifestyle created tensions between he and his father.

"I understood and all, but at 17 years old you can't be out until 3 or 4 in the morning," Griffey Sr. said. "I was able to sleep. But my wife (Birdie) was staying up worrying. So I tried to talk with him."

"Dad wanted me to pay rent or get my own place," Griffey Jr. said. "I was confused. I was hurting and I wanted to cause some hurt for others."

So Griffey one day emptied a large bottle of aspirin and swallowed the pills, despite efforts by a girlfriend and her brother to stop him. He said he got in his car and threw up.

The girlfriend's mother drove him to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped and he was placed in intensive care.

Griffey Sr. said he was scared and angry when he found out. He rushed to the hospital, where he and his son got into another argument.

"I ripped the IV out of my arm," Griffey Jr. said. "That stopped him yelling."

"I was mad, but what could I do," his father said. "It made me realize kids have their own set of problems and pressures. They forget that parents were kids, too, not always Mom or Dad. But we forget life has changed a lot. It can be tougher in a lot of ways."

Griffey Jr. said he did not seek counseling after the incident.

"The problem was with me and my father," he said. "I'm smarter than most people think I am, although what I did was not smart. I knew what I had done and got over it. There weren't any deep problems with me afterwards."

The family agreed Griffey Jr. should move into a condominium.

Just over a year later, at age 19, Griffey Jr. made the Mariners after hitting .359 in 26 spring training games. He has since become one of baseball's most stars, a .300 hitter and Gold Glove outfielder. He had made the All-Star team last year for the second consecutive season, leading AL in votes.

He says he's resolved many of his problems through heart-to-heart talks with his father. The talks were made easier when the Mariners signed Griffey Sr. in August 1990 to make them the first father-son teammates in major league history.

Griffey Sr. has since retired as a player but remains in the Mariners organization as a special-assignment scout and instructor. The talks, though, haven't stopped.

"The biggest change is that I learned my dad wasn't just trying to boss me around," Griffey Jr. said. "He was trying to help me. I listen to him a lot more than I used to. It may not look it, but I do."