ST. LOUIS -- Ken Griffey Jr. joined the 500-homer club -- finally.
A week after his last home run, he ended the frustrating stretch
with one big swing in Cincinnati's 6-0 victory over St. Louis on
Sunday. He's the 20th player to hit 500 homers and at 34, the sixth
youngest to reach the milestone.
"I just told him, 'About time,' " teammate Barry Larkin said.
Before depositing a 2-2 fastball from Matt Morris in the
right-field stands, Griffey was 5-for-21 with four RBI in six
games since homering last Sunday against Cleveland. He hadn't come
close to the fences before hitting his 19th homer of the season, a drive estimated at 393 feet.
But he insisted that the wait for 500 wasn't all that trying
because his family accompanied him to St. Louis after he came up
empty in three games in Cincinnati.
"I know it's been tough for you guys, because you guys have
been running out of things to talk about," Griffey said. "Usually
during the season they leave me alone and I can concentrate on
"This time it's like. 'Hey, we're still here and we're going to
hang out with you until you do it, and we're going to support you,
and if we have to travel the rest of the year we're going to do
it.' That's what helped, they were there watching."
The ball was caught by 19-year-old Mark Crummley of Mount
Carmel, Ill., who gave it back to Griffey after the game.
"It didn't seem right to try to plea bargain with him over his
baseball," said Crummley, a student at Southern Illinois. "It
means a lot more to him than me, so I just gave it back to him."
After getting mobbed by teammates, Griffey made a beeline to his
family's seats adjacent to the Reds' dugout and hugged his father
and children. He has a knack for honoring his father, who hit 152
homers in his career, homering four times on Father's Day and eight
times on his dad's birthday.
"That's the last thing my mother said as I was leaving, she
said, 'You're going to do it today. You hit home runs on your dad's
birthday and today you're going to hit a home run,' " Griffey said.
"When I hit it, my first reaction was that my mom is always right.
"And get around the bases."
Ken Griffey Sr. joked that the homer would not suffice for a
Father's Day present.
"It's an easy way to get out of giving me something," Griffey
Sr. said. "He used to do that for me for my birthday all the time.
He'd hit one and call me, 'Happy birthday Dad, I hit a home run.'
"He's got to get something else now."
Griffey, the first to reach 500 in a Cincinnati uniform, got a
warm ovation from a sellout crowd of 45,620 on Lou Brock bobblehead
day. He then received a standing ovation as he ran out to the field
before the bottom of the sixth, responding with a wave of his cap.
"Under those circumstances, it wasn't like it was a game
winner," Cardinals right fielder Reggie Sanders said. "They were
already up 5-0. But they would do it whatever the circumstances
were because they appreciated it."
Griffey gave Crummley the jersey off his back and a large shopping bag
that contained three autographed bats, some hats, the jersey and a glove.
Ken Griffey Sr. has the ball from his son's 400th homer, but Junior said he's keeping No. 500.
"Mark was awesome," said Griffey, who met Crummley in the Reds clubhouse after the game. "He was just a class act."
Steve Wolter, owner of Sports Investments Inc., told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the ball likely would command $50,000 to $75,000 at a national auction.
Jung Keun Bong (1-1) allowed three hits in six scoreless innings
and three relievers finished a combined four-hit shutout to end the
Reds' nine-game road losing streak. The slump was the Reds' longest
since they dropped 10 in a row in 1998.
The Reds, who got a three-run homer from Jason LaRue in the
fourth, also averted a three-game sweep and ended the Cardinals'
six-game winning streak.
Jimmie Foxx was the youngest player to hit 500 homers, reaching
the milestone at 32. Willie Mays, Sammy Sosa, Hank Aaron and Babe
Ruth also hit theirs at 34.
Griffey was the fastest to 350, 400 and 450 before being slowed
by injuries the last three seasons. From 2001-03, he played in only
234 games and hit 43 homers.
Griffey hit a pair of high fly balls in his first two at-bats.
He flied out to center near the warning track leading off the
second, and hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in the first run
in the Reds' five-run fourth against Morris.
He finished 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and two RBI.
Morris (7-6) gave up six runs on six hits in six innings. He has
allowed a major league-high 23 homers in 15 starts and wasn't
overly perturbed about being a footnote to history.
"I stayed away with breaking balls until on a 2-2 count I tried
to slip a fastball by him," Morris said. "I guess people have
been doing that 500 times, and it didn't work."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.