The catch was the third out of the inning; Griffey landed as if still in stride and headed for the dugout as part of a single continuous motion. He glanced over at Mariners leftfielder Jeffrey Leonard, who threw his head back and rolled his eyes in disbelief. Griffey cracked up. He came sprinting back to the infield with the biggest grin anyone's seen in Yankee Stadium since Morganna was patrolling the place. When he got a look at Barfield standing between first and second with an angry expression on his face, Griffey cracked up again. "That's why I like playing defense," he says, "because it's the only time I get to see somebody else but me get mad."
In the stands a woman tapped Ken Griffey Sr. on the shoulder—it was just the third major league game he had ever seen Junior play—and asked, "Is that your son?"
Griffey Sr. nodded.
"Jesse Barfield's my husband," Maria Barfield said.
As Junior loped in, still grinning, the Yankee fans rose to applaud him, the Yankee brass upstairs got to their feet, and the Mariners poured onto the field to greet him with high fives. "He shared that catch with all of us," Seattle coach Julio Cruz said later. "It pumped us all up."
Everyone, friend and foe. It was one of those great baseball moments. The next time Barfield came to bat, he homered seven rows deep to right center, and as he crossed the plate he told Mariners catcher Scott Bradley, "If he'd caught that one, I'd have had his urine checked."
After the game Seattle manager Jim Lefebvre ran down an already impressive checklist of Junior's alltime greatest plays. There was the catch he made last year in Fenway while crashing into the Green Monster, taking an extra base hit away from Boston's Wade Boggs. And the time, also last season, when he threw out Robin Yount trying to stretch a triple, firing a strike on the fly to third from the 375-foot sign in right center. For pure beauty, there was the Mays-style back-to-the-plate bases-loaded snag of a shot by Oakland's Rickey Henderson on April 15. But that was a game the Mariners ultimately lost. For game-savers, Lefebvre had only to look back 24 hours, when Griffey preserved a 2-1 Mariners lead by making a diving backhand spear on a fifth-inning drive to the gap by Yankee shortstop Alvaro Espinoza and then scrambling to his feet in time to double Steve Sax off first.
"Every time he makes one of those plays, you think, He'll never top that one," said Lefebvre. "You can't believe how much it picks up the entire club. He's going to be one of the real marquee players in this league. That's one thing his father, as great as he was, never was."
While this conversation was going on, Griffey Sr.—or Mr. Griffey, as his Cincinnati Reds teammates call him—came into the Mariners locker room to congratulate his son. "Junior!" he called, seeing the kid disappearing into the showers. To no avail. "He ignores me now that he's bigger than me," Mr. Griffey said. While he waited for Junior's return, longtime Yankee reporters asked Senior to recall the time in 1985 when he was playing for the Yanks and he had similarly robbed Boston's Marty Barrett—"I think I got higher than Junior did"—and whether he was surprised by the exploits of his namesake. "I'm in awe the same as you guys are," Griffey said, putting the kidding aside. "Yes, I'm a very proud dad."
Junior's voice, disguised in a Long Island lockjaw accent, suddenly rang out above the din. "Yes, Father?" he said.