It’s tempting to dismiss Ken Griffey Jr. as washed up or as another Mickey Mantle case of bad knees ruining his true potential. But Griffey was performing at such astronomical heights at such an early age for so long — and presumably without steroids — that he cemented himself in Cooperstown a decade ago. Don’t blink now, but he’s got 611 homers.
So why does the Ken Griffey Jr. for President campaign seem as outdated as all those Bo Jackson ads for Nike?
Griffey reportedly hated the Nike ad campaign, but it generated so much (pre-YouTube) buzz that rival sneaker company FILA put up slugger Eddie Murray for a White House bid as well. While the premise of Griffey’s TV spots wandered all over the baseball universe, bringing in Democratic pitbull James Carville, Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes and even funkmaster George Clinton, the Eddie Murray bit was a one-joke act.
Murray was notorious for giving the media the silent treatment. Think Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” policy for the Western Hemisphere. His TV ads were all narration, naturally not even bothering to quote him.
Carville in the Nike ad was omniscient about the birth of the Washington Nationals. “If they’re so smart in Washington,” he said, “why don’t they have a baseball team?”
For more on baseball and fake political campaigns, check out the New York Mets grassroots effort in 1964 to elect one of their minor league shortstops to the Oval Office.
A bit more of baseball presidential campaign trivia: Red Sox legends Carlton Fisk, Ted Williams and Curt Schilling endorsed George W. Bush over the past two elections. Schilling pitched for McCain this year, up until the very last moment in New Hampshire.
If you like offbeat political and pop culture memorabilia like this, then please check out my new Slate magazine slideshow devoted to the fake presidential bids of Archie Bunker, Fred Flintstone, Snoopy, Charile Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus Van Pelt, Barbie, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mr. Clean, Captain Morgan the Rum Pirate, Fonzie, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman!