- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MIAMI (AP) | Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run Monday night, completing his long ascent and becoming the sixth player in history to reach that milestone.

The Cincinnati outfielder homered off Florida lefty Mark Hendrickson in the first inning of the Reds’ 9-4 victory over the Florida Marlins. Griffey joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa.

The 38-year-old homered with Jerry Hairston on third and one out. The left-handed swinger launched a 3-1 pitch 413 feet into the right-field seats.

Griffey received a standing ovation from the crowd of 16,003 and responded by coming out of the Reds’ dugout and waving his helmet to the fans.

“I don’t think I touched any of the bases. I sort of floated around,” Griffey said.

Manager Dusty Baker has managed the last three players to achieve the milestone: Bonds in San Francisco, Sosa in Chicago and now Griffey. He was there for Bonds’ 600th on Aug. 9, 2002.

“It’s awesome every time you see a milestone like that,” Baker said. “It doesn’t take away from the others. It adds to it.”

The game was the last one of an eight-game road trip for the Reds, who will return home Tuesday night to play the St. Louis Cardinals.

Controversy ensued in the stands following the home run. Justin Kimball, a 25-year-old from Miami, said he caught the home run ball, put it in a wool cap and then had the cap ripped from his hands. Kimball said someone ran off with the ball.

Police said they had found the fan with the baseball and would look at video tape to see whether Kimball’s claims could be supported.

However, the Marlins announced Major League Baseball had authenticated the home run ball for a middle-aged male fan who only would give his first name as Joe.

Paul Bako had his first career multihomer game - three-run and two-run shots - and Brandon Phillips added a solo homer in support of Edinson Volquez (9-2), who gave up three runs in six innings.

Griffey ended the game 1-for-4 with a strikeout and an intentional walk. He exited in the middle of the eighth.

Hairston left the game in the middle of the first after suffering a fractured left thumb when stealing second.

Hendrickson (7-4) allowed six runs - five earned - and five hits in 2 1/3 innings. Mike Jacobs homered for the Marlins.

Still, the game will be remembered for Griffey’s historic homer.

The slugger hasn’t enjoyed many golden moments since the Reds got him from Seattle in 2000. This will rank as one of his best with Cincinnati and, possibly, one of his last, given that he’s in the final year of his contract.

It was a long time coming.

Griffey, one of baseball’s most prolific sluggers before injuries began to take their toll, started the season with 593 home runs.

It took 216 at-bats this season to make history.

Griffey hit No. 597 on April 23 at Great American Ball Park, then went 90 at-bats - the second-longest drought of his career - before connecting again in San Diego on May 22.

He went another 29 at-bats and even got a day off during the week to work on his swing before hitting No. 599 on May 31. Griffey went 17 at-bats between that homer and No. 600.

“I’ve been swinging the bat a lot better the last 10 days or so,” Griffey said. “I was able to get the ball in the air. I wasn’t beating the ball into the ground like I had been.”

Like his 400th and 500th, this home run came on the road.

When Griffey was traded to his hometown team before the 2000 season, he was significantly ahead of Aaron’s record home run pace.

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