MIAMI - Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run last night, completing his long ascent and becoming the sixth player in major league history to reach that milestone.
The Cincinnati Reds outfielder homered off Florida lefthander Mark Hendrickson in the first inning of a 9-4 victory over the 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 lefthanded swinger launched a 3-1 curveball 413 feet into the right-field seats.
"I don't think I touched any of the bases. I sort of floated around," Griffey said.
Griffey received a standing ovation from the relatively sparse crowd and responded by coming out of the Reds dugout and tipping his helmet to the fans.
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 videotape to see if 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 would only give his first name as Joe.
Griffey 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.
Griffey started the season with 593 home runs. It took 216 at-bats to make history - his most recent homer came May 31.
Griffey hit No. 597 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 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. 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."