Originally published April 16, 2010
Coming out of high school, Terry McGriff was not only drafted, but drafted by the team he had hoped he would be drafted by.
"It was a dream come true," McGriff told AstrosDaily.com in 2001, "It's funny, because I wanted to be drafted by the Reds, get to know Johnny Bench and then show him that I could play and compete either on the same level or better."
McGriff was, at one point, on the list of catchers looked at to replace Bench. But his goal of being Bench's permanent replacement was never realized.
Taken in the eighth round in 1981, McGriff was sent to rookie league Billings, then short-season Eugene. At Eugene, McGriff hit .242 in 53 games. Still, Eugene manager Jimmy Stewart was calling McGriff the "best catcher in the league," according to the Eugene Register Guard.
By spring 1985, McGriff was trying out for the big club. Manager Pete Rose was looking for the new Bench, with five catchers in camp. Instead, McGriff was sent to AA Vermont, where he and Delwyn Young helped the Reds defeat Albany to get to the league finals.
McGriff was still being looked at the next year when his hometown paper, the Palm Beach Post featured him.
"He's a good defensive catcher, both receiving and throwing," Reds official Brian Granger told the paper. "I think he's got a good chance to be a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds for a long time."
McGriff got to Cincinnati, but not until the next year, in July. He played in 34 games that year, 35 the next. He also had three home runs over those two years, his only three in the majors. One of them came Sept. 15, 1987, a grand slam.
McGriff only played six games in each of 1989 and 1990, the second year sent to Houston in September. Then three games in 1993 with Florida and 42 for St. Louis in 1994. By then, two McGriff relatives were known, first cousin Charles Johnson and second cousin Fred McGriff. Terry McGriff even encouraged Johnson to also be a catcher.
His final major league game came Aug. 7, 1994, his major league career cut short as the season was cut short.
A couple more years at AAA for Detroit and Toronto and his time in affiliated ball was done. But his playing days weren't. He played 1997 in Mexico, then for independent Bridgeport from the team's inception in 1998 to 2001.
In its 2001 interview, AstrosDaily asked McGriff his plans for retirement.
"I know it's about that time," McGriff told the site. "Baseball is what I've done my whole life, so I'd rather stay in that setting or environment,"
McGriff retired from playing, but he went on coaching, coaching Bridgeport into 2010.
Read the May 2011 interview: Terry McGriff, Chose Baseball
- The Eugene Register-Guard, Aug. 28, 1982: Lee and the Ems have a night, 11-7
- The Associated Press, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Feb. 23, 1985: Reds Looking For a Catcher
- The Palm Beach Post, July 18, 1986: McGriff good catch for Reds
- AstrosDaily.com, Dec. 28, 2001: An Interview with Terry McGriff
- New York Daily News, April 4, 2004: A Black Cloud: Lack of African American pitchers & catchers haunts game