Frederick Stanley McGriff (born October 31, 1963) is an American former professional baseball first baseman, who played for six Major League Baseball (MLB) teams from 1986 through 2004. A power-hitting first baseman, he became a five-time All-Star and led both leagues in home runs in separate years – the American League in 1989 and the National League in 1992. McGriff finished his career with 493 home runs, tied with Hall of Fame player Lou Gehrig, and only seven homers away from joining the 500 home run club. He won a World Series title as a first baseman with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. He currently works in the Atlanta Braves' front office as Special Assistant to Baseball Operations.
McGriff's nickname, "Crime Dog", one of the many humorous nicknames created by sports broadcaster Chris Berman, is a play on McGruff, a cartoon dog created for American police to raise children's awareness on crime prevention. At first, McGriff stated he would prefer "Fire Dog" (a reference to a fire in the press-box of Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium the day the Braves acquired him from the Padres; symbolically, the then-slumping Braves "caught fire" and ended up winning their division), but since has stated that he actually is fond of the "Crime Dog" nickname.
McGriff was a prospect in the New York Yankees minor league system in the early 1980s. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 9th round of the 1981 amateur draft and signed June 11, 1981. In 1982, the Yankees dealt McGriff, Dave Collins and Mike Morgan to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. The trade is now considered one of the most one-sided deals in baseball history, and one of the worst in Yankees history. However, it appeared to make some sense from the Yankees' perspective, since McGriff was blocked from first base by Don Mattingly. Nonetheless, the Yankees didn't get nearly enough in return. Murray won only three games in three years with the Yankees, and was out of baseball by 1986. Dodd was released at the end of the season, and apart from a month with the Baltimore Orioles in 1986 spent the remainder of his career in the minors. In 2006, Rob Neyer wrote that the trade looked particularly lopsided because it was one of the few instances that a player of McGriff's stature was traded before getting to the majors.
McGriff reached the majors full-time in 1987 and hit 34 home runs the next year, his first of seven consecutive seasons with over 30 homers. McGriff emerged as the top power hitter in the American League in 1989, leading the league with 36 home runs, including the first at Toronto's SkyDome, helping the Blue Jays win the AL East division title. His power numbers remained steady in 1990, as McGriff batted .300 and established himself as a consistent producer.
Move to the National League
On December 5, 1990, McGriff was traded to the San Diego Padres with Tony Fernández in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter – two players who would be integral in Toronto's back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.
His numbers remained consistent in the National League, hitting .278/.396/.474 for San Diego in 1991. He made his first All-Star appearance the following year and led the NL in home runs in 1992, three years after he had accomplished the same feat in the AL. On July 18, 1993, the Padres, out of contention and seeking to unload their high-priced veterans, dealt McGriff to the Atlanta Braves for prospect Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott and Melvin Nieves. McGriff hit a home run in his first game with the Braves, who acquired him to replace the struggling Sid Bream in at first and provide an offensive spark, and was a key player in the Braves' 51-19 finish to overtake the San Francisco Giants and claim first place in the National League West for a third consecutive season. He finished with a career high 37 homers and fourth place in the NL MVP voting. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, McGriff was batting .318 and had 34 home runs when play ended in August 1994. He won the All-Star Game MVP Award that year after hitting the game-tying home run for the National League, after the NL trailed 7–5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. McGriff was runner-up to Ken Griffey Jr. in the 1994 Home Run Derby.
McGriff remained with the Braves in 1995 and continued to be a successful cleanup hitter. He hit two home runs in the 1995 World Series en route to his only World Series championship ring. McGriff hit .295/.365/.494 with a career-best 107 RBIs on his way to another World Series appearance in 1996. With 22 home runs in 1997, McGriff appeared to be in decline. He was called out on strikes by umpire Eric Gregg on a pitch 3 feet outside thrown by Liván Hernández during the 1997 NLCS, which was the last significant event for McGriff as a Brave. The team allowed him to be picked up by the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays after the season.
McGriff, playing for his hometown team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, batted .278 with 19 home runs in his first season with the Devil Rays. His numbers experienced a minor renaissance in 1999 when he hit .310 with 32 home runs the following season. After another solid season in 2000, McGriff got off to a good start in 2001 and was heavily pursued by the contending Chicago Cubs around the trade deadline. He waived his no-trade clause to allow himself to be dealt to Chicago on July 27, 2001. He hit .282 with 12 homers in 49 games with the Cubs, but the team did not reach the postseason.
McGriff had 30 home runs during a strong 2002 campaign, which earned him a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2003 season. Twenty-two homers shy of 500 for his career, the forty-year-old McGriff only hit 13 with a .249 batting average and spent a significant amount of time on the disabled list.
During spring training in 2004, the Devil Rays re-signed McGriff in hopes of letting the veteran ballplayer hit 500 home runs. He ended up with a .181 average and had hit just two home runs in his sporadic play from the end of May until mid-July. The Devil Rays released McGriff on July 28, 2004, seven home runs shy of 500. Despite the fact that McGriff only played in Tampa Bay late in his career, he collected 66 win shares as a Devil Ray, the team's all-time record.
McGriff was released by the Devil Rays and officially declared his retirement during spring training of 2005 when he received no calls from any teams requesting his services. He retired with 493 home runs, tied with baseball legend Lou Gehrig, and became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2010. He received 21.5% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, falling short of the 75% requirement for induction. Over the next four elections, McGriff's vote percentage ranged from a high of 23.9% (137 votes) in 2012 to a low of 11.7% (67 votes) in 2014, however as a player who received more than 5.0% of votes cast, McGriff remains eligible for induction by the Baseball Writer's Association of America. Excluding those players either associated with alleged steroid use and those not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, McGriff has the most career home runs of any player not in the Hall of Fame.
McGriff ended his career having 10 seasons with at least 30 home runs. He and Gary Sheffield are the only players ever to hit at least 30 home runs in one season for 5 different teams, accomplishing the feat with Toronto three times, San Diego twice, and Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and the Chicago Cubs once each.
Life outside sports
McGriff appeared in commercials for Tom Emanski's Baseball Fundamentals training videos in 1991. In the ad, McGriff deadpans the merits of the videos while wearing a "Baseball World" mesh cap perched high atop his head. The commercials ran for over a decade on ESPN, making them some of the longest running commercials on television.
Currently, McGriff hosts a radio show in Tampa.