Ken Griffey Jr. just moved into hallowed company with the swing of his bat. In front of only a few thousand fans at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Griffey hit home run number 600.
Only five others have hit as many souvenir shots as Griffey. He joins Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa as the only players to do so.
Junior connected off a Mark Hendrickson curveball in the first inning of the Cincinatti Reds’ 9-4 victory over the Florida Marlins. The 38-year-old slugger hit a 3-1 pitch 413 feet into the right-field seats with a man on and one out.
The ball landed among a cluster of fans in the sparse crowd in Miami. The thing with historic home runs now is that the ball gains more attention than the player who hit it. Sure enough, there is a lawsuit brewing over the owner of Griffey’s number
Arguably the greatest player of our generation, Griffey has a picturesque swing that makes any hitting instructor salivate. Unfortunately, every major accomplishment in baseball is looked at in a different light nowadays. In Griffey, you can’t find a better role model in all of baseball. "The Kid" came into the league swinging, inching toward greatness. Now he stands among the elite, only to have the accomplishment clouded by the controversy following baseball.
He was always expected to challenge the all-time home run records, until Griffey became the only person affected by the Y2K scare. Griffey was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds before the 2000 season. He suffered a torn left hamstring in 2001. He followed that in 2002 with a torn knee tendon and torn right hamstring. 2003 wasn’t any luckier for the slugger, as he dislocated his right shoulder and tore his ankle tendon. There was a second torn hamstring in 2004. The muscle had to be reattached to the bone with screws through an innovative surgery.
Injuries killed the major league star. Griffey started the 2008 season with 593 home runs despite missing more than 450 games the past seven seasons. It seems there will always be speculation over how many home runs he could have hit if he had stayed reasonably healthy.
Regardless of how many moon shots Griffey does end up with, he will be one of the very few players in the "juiced era" of baseball that will be looked at in a positive light. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played. Playing in the same generation as players hitting more home runs than they should, Griffey will wind up hitting fewer home runs than he should have. As his career draws to its close, expect fans to usher him out as one of the last true baseball heroes.