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Junior does it: 500 served06/20/2004 9:13 PM ET
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Griffey Jr. went exactly one week between home runs, but his 500th couldn't have come on a better day.
Hitting the homer on Father's Day was the perfect way for Junior to end his quest, considering that he and his dad, Ken Griffey Sr., are probably the most famous father/son duo in Major League history.
"It's been a great Father's Day for me," Griffey Sr. said. "I had my grandkids sitting there watching the game and I enjoyed every minute of it."
A couple of minutes probably stood out more than others.
Following the 393-foot solo blast off Cardinals right-hander Matt Morris in the sixth inning of a 6-0 Cincinnati win, Junior first was congratulated by his teammates but didn't waste any time making his way to his dad, who was sitting right next to the Reds dugout.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Junior. "It was awesome. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever accomplish something like this. All the aches and pains that I've had this year were gone while I rounded the bases.
"First, I wanted to take care of my teammates and my family," Junior said. "They've been there through everything -- both families."
Griffey and his dad shared an embrace before the newest member of baseball's 500 Home Run Club called his son, Trey, and daughter, Taryn, over for a hug.
"I told him I loved him," Griffey said. "That's it."
"Happy Father's Day, that's exactly what he said," revealed Griffey Sr. "He's not going to get away that easy."
The homer, Junior's 19th of the season, was his fourth career home run on Father's Day. He's also hit eight homers on his father's birthday.
"The last thing my mother said before I left today was that I was going to do it today," Junior said. "She said, 'You always hit home runs on your dad's birthday and things like that, so today you're going to hit a home run.'
"When I hit it, my first reaction was that my mom's always right."
Griffey, fully healthy for the first time since 2000, is now tied with teammate Adam Dunn and Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols for second place in the Major Leagues with 19 home runs. He's on pace to hit 44 homers this season.
The milestone probably would have happened much sooner if not for his recent rash of injuries, but despite a couple of bumps (and plenty of bruises) along the way, Griffey is now the 20th player in Major League history to join baseball's 500 Home Run Club.
"I never thought I'd be talking about 500 home runs," Junior said. "My dad hit 152, and that's the person I wanted to be like. He was my hero growing up. He was the one that taught me how to play. He's still telling me how to play. That means a lot to have somebody there who has been through it."
Griffey entered the season with 481 career home runs, but got off to a less than ideal start. He sat out Cincinnati's opener with a calf strain before finishing April with a .222 average, three home runs and 13 RBIs.
But Griffey appeared to find baseball's fountain of youth in May. He led the Majors with 10 home runs during the month and didn't slow down in June. He went deep in four of his first five games before hitting No. 499 on June 13 and making history on Sunday.
"It was a fastball in," Griffey said. "I just guessed. He threw a couple curveballs and then a fastball chest-high, so I figured he was going to come back in. I finally got one that I could handle, and I hit it out."
A simple enough explanation, but there's a little bit more behind his recent run of long balls.
The biggest factor is health. During his first season in Cincinnati, he hit 40 homers and drove in 118 runs, but because of injuries, he totaled only 43 round-trippers over the next three campaigns.
"I don't worry about that," Griffey said, when asked about how many homers he could have had. "When you play hard, you get hurt. If I'd have done it doing something else (than playing baseball) then I could say, 'What if?'
"I go out there with one goal and that's to play as hard as I can. If that means running into a wall, I'll run into a wall. If I need to dive, I'll dive. That's how I've always played -- 100 percent."
Over his first four seasons, Griffey hit 16, 22, 22 and 27 home runs, respectively.
Solid enough numbers, but minute compared to the pace he began popping pitches out of parks in 1993.
After hitting 45 that season, Griffey hit 40 or more long balls in six of the next seven seasons. The only time he fell short was when he hit 17 during an injury-riddled 1995 season in Seattle. Through his first 12 seasons, Griffey hit 438 long balls -- an average of 36.5 a season.
Griffey's run made him the youngest player ever to hit 350, 400 and 450 homers. Not one to dwell on his own accomplishments, most of the mementos from those historic homer-run balls have gone to others.
This one won't.
Mark Crummley, a 19-year-old nursing student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, caught the ball. Crummley was immediately whisked down to the Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse, where he gave the ball to Griffey and received the No. 30 jersey right off the slugger's back.
"This one's going home," Griffey said. "My dad's got 400, but I think I'm keeping this one."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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