Alfredo Griffin is asked about Danny Ainge and the first thing he says is, "bad second baseman." The Anaheim Angels first base coach is joking. In fact, he grew very fond of the Boston Celtics' executive director of basketball operations when they teamed up as a double-play combination for the Toronto Blue Jays more than 20 years ago. "Danny was really popular then," said the 45-year-old Griffin, who played for the Blue Jays from 1979 to '84 and again from 1992 to '93. "He was trying to choose whether to play basketball or baseball. I admired him. He did both. He was a better basketball player than baseball, but when a guy plays two sports, you've got to admire that."
Griffin was already three years into an 18-year career when Ainge arrived, still a member of the Brigham Young basketball team, but they began their tenure with the Blue Jays together. In their first season, Griffin was a regular at shortstop while Ainge was a part- time second baseman, turning 67 double plays. Ainge played 89 games at second base during his three-year career (he spent much of his second season on the bench), 80 at third base, 33 in the outfield and four as a DH. As a second baseman, though, he was a career .970 fielder. "I was older than him," Griffin said. "He was a rookie. He was putting his feet on the ground, but he was doing great. He was in the middle of deciding which way to go."
Griffin didn't know if that kept Ainge from concentrating fully on his baseball career. Ainge ended up a .220 hitter, hitting only .187 in his third and final season. "He could be mixed up, but I guess he knew what he could do better and he chose basketball."