Ken Griffey Jr., All-Star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, says he tried to kill himself in 1988, when he was 17.
“It seemed like everyone was yelling at me in baseball, then I came home and everyone was yelling at me there,” he told the Seattle Times. “I got depressed. I got angry. I didn’t want to live.”
In January of 1988, Griffey said, he swallowed nearly 300 aspirin and wound up in intensive care in Providence Hospital at Mount Airy, Ohio.
He had thought about suicide a couple of times, he said, “with my father’s gun or something.”
“The aspirin thing was the only time I acted,” he said in the interview, published Sunday. “It was such a dumb thing.”
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 children. “I am living proof how stupid it is.’
Griffey was the Mariners’ first selection in June of 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 teen-age sons of the team bus driver. He said one of them called him a racial slur, and another came looking for him with a gun.
When Griffey came home to Ohio that fall, his lifestyle created tension between him and his father, former major leaguer Ken Griffey Sr.
“I understood and all, but at 17 years old you can’t be out until 3 or 4 in the morning,” his father 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 said, he 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 afterward.”
The family agreed Griffey Jr. should move into a condominium.
Slightly more than a year later, at 19, Griffey Jr. made the Mariners after batting .359 in 26 spring games. He has since become a .300 hitter and Gold Glove outfielder. He made the All-Star team last year for the second consecutive season, leading the American League in votes.
He says he has resolved many of his problems through heart-to-heart talks with his father.
“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.”