Griffin Won Awards, Championships After Brief Stint With Tribe
Craig Gifford | On 18, Apr 2014
Alfredo Griffin was not a great player, nor was he anything close to a Hall of Famer. However, he had a career that would make many baseball players jealous.
The former Major League shortstop spent parts of 18 seasons in the big leagues, collecting a Rookie of the Year honor, a trip to an All-Star game and a Gold Glove award. He also won three World Series rings before his career was over. Most of Griffin’s work was done with the Blue Jays, Athletics and Dodgers. However, before amassing any of his hardware, Griffin spent 31 games with the Cleveland Indians.
It was the Tribe that ushered Griffin into the majors. The team signed him as an amateur free agent in 1973 when he was all of 15 years old. Griffin shot up through Cleveland’s farm system and was wearing and Indians uniform at the tender age of 18. He made his debut on September 4, 1976 and played in 12 games. He knocked his first of what would be 1,688 career hits during the late-season call up.
Griffin spent parts of 1977 and 1978 with Cleveland. However, his time with the club was brief. In all, he had just nine hits and three RBI while in a Tribe uniform.
After the 1978 season, the Indians decided to trade their 21-year-old prospect to Toronto. In return, they received equally young relief pitcher Victor Cruz. It was a forgettable deal as Cruz spent just two seasons in the Tribe bullpen, while Griffin prospered immediately with the Jays.
Griffin batted .287 in his first full big league campaign. More importantly, he flashed what would become his best quality – his speed – swiping 21 bases. Those numbers were enough to help him garner the American League Rookie of the Year recognition. Griffin was off and running, both figuratively and literally.
In 1980, Griffin continued to run, leading the league with 15 triples and snagging 18 more stolen bases. In 1984, Griffin’s last season in his first tour of Toronto, the 26-year-old made his lone Mid-Summer Classic. His final numbers that year were not great, as he batted just .241. The Blue Jays decided to part ways with him after the year, dealing Griffin to Oakland.
Griffin’s strong fielding prowess earned him his Gold Glove in his first season with the A’s. Griffin rebounded at the played, batting .270 in 1985 and .285 in 1986. He batted a respectable .263 in 1987. Griffin’s three seasons in Oakland also saw him record his three highest stolen base totals at 24, 33 and 26.
Following the 1987 season, the A’s shipped Griffin of to the Dodgers as part of an eight-player, three-team deal, that saw Oakland land starter Bob Welch.
After leaving the Bay Area, Griffin’s numbers went down, considerably. He never again came close to 20 steals and never again batted more than .247. It was nowhere near doom and gloom, however, as Griffin would be a part of three World Series winners in what turned out to be his final six years.
Griffin’s first season with the Dodgers saw the first of those rings. The Dodgers won that year on the strength of young ace Orel Hershiser and power hitter Kirk Gibson, who delivered one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history that year against the A’s. That was the series that saw a hobble Gibson take Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley deep to win Game 1.
Griffin spent three more, middle-of-the-road seasons with the Dodgers before signing a free agent deal to go back to Toronto for the 1992 season. He was a part-time player in those last two years, but surely couldn’t have cared as he added two more Series rings to his collection.
The very last moment of Griffin’s career allowed him to witness another of the more memorable Fall Classic moments. Teammate Joe Carter won the 1993 series with a walk-off, Game 6 home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams. Following that game, Griffin went out they way few get to, on top.
While Griffin’s overall numbers do not stand out among the elite players – less than 2,000 hits, 192 steals and .249 batting average – there are many players who would like to have the longevity and championship wins Griffin enjoyed. Griffin’s hustle and baseball knowledge has earned him a life in the sport after his playing days. His currently the first base coach for the Angels.
Griffin was mostly memorable because he lasted so long in the majors. He likely not remembered in the minds of most Cleveland sports fans, but is a footnote in Indians history, nonetheless.