By Keith D. King
Major League Baseball legend Ken Griffey Sr. had a career that most aspiring baseball players dream of. He played 18 seasons in the Majors, had three All-Star appearances, won two World Series titles, and was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. Griffey Sr. biggest victory may not be what he accomplished on the field, but off. After being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and winning the battle, Griffey Sr. is now helping to bring awareness to the disease through a campaign titled “Men Who Speak Up”. He was in San Diego this past weekend speaking at a Prostate Cancer seminar.
“I’m now a 12 year cancer survivor,” said Griffey Sr. “I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, but I was lucky enough for the Cancer to be found at an early stage. I loss four uncles to Prostate Cancer, so growing up my mother always stressed the importance of getting checked when me and my brothers became age appropriate. With the Men Who Speak up campaign we are focusing on informing men of the advanced stages of Prostate Cancer, and encouraging more men to have an open dialogue with their Doctors about symptoms of Prostate Cancer.”
The rate of Prostate Cancer continues to rise for men, especially African-American men. African-American men are 1.6 times more likely to get Prostate Cancer, and more than twice as likely to die from it. Through the campaign, Griffey Sr. hopes to help more men understand the severity of the disease and to become more comfortable speaking about it.
“If you think about a lot of men that has or had Prostate Cancer, it’s a tough subject for any man to speak about. Most men have a problem speaking on personal issues, especially when it pertains to anywhere below the belt. I had a few friends that I played golf with for many years and I did not know that they were living with Prostate Cancer until I spoke out about my diagnosis, and they finally told me. This is why I feel the Men Who Speak up campaign is so important.”
Griffey Sr. also spoke on the current state of baseball and the fact that over the last 20-30 years there has been a steady decline in young African-Americans playing baseball. A study conducted by the Society of American Baseball Research showed that in the 1980’s about 19% of players in MLB were African-American, that number is now 8.5%.
“It’s just the times that we live in now. In baseball you can get drafted and have to wait three or four years before you make it to a Major League roster. In Basketball or football you can get drafted and make $10-15 million in your first four years. Kids see that and they take that route. I was in the Minor Leagues for years before I was called up like most players. Every once in a while you have players that are the exception like my son Ken, but in baseball it’s just usually a process that I think a lot of young kids aren’t willing to go through anymore.”
In terms of the exception, his son Ken Griffey Jr. was nothing short of that. Arguably one of the best players of all time, Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame last year with a record 99.3% vote.
“I can’t express how proud of Ken I am. I remember flying and driving all over the country to make sure I was there when he hit his number 500th home run, then I did the same for number 600. Every Time he hit a milestone, he knew that he could look up in the stands and I was there somewhere. It was absolutely a joy to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Visit menwhospeakup.com for more information on how to get involved.