Griffey belts 500th homer in Reds' win

Monday, June 21, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Ken Griffey Jr. trotted around the bases as if it were just another home run. It was anything but that.

Griffey hit a 2-2 fastball from Matt Morris into the right-field stands to lead off the sixth inning Sunday, securing a spot in the record books as the 20th player with 500 homers.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever accomplish this," Griffey said. "All the aches and pains I've had this year were gone for like two minutes. It was awesome."

The star center fielder ended a frustrating stretch with the swing, which helped the Cincinnati Reds beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.

At 34, he became the sixth-youngest player to reach the milestone.

Griffey, stuck on No. 499 for a week, took a few extra seconds to watch his drive fly into the seats, then dropped his bat and slowly trotted around the bases with his 19th homer of the season.

"I'm sure he's relieved," manager Dave Miley said. "I'm sure he's happy to get it over with."

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. That's why they're the best fans in baseball."

Before Griffey reached center field, Reds relievers came out of the bullpen and congratulated him.

The ball was caught by 19-year-old Mark Crummley of Mount Carmel, Ill., who gave it back to Griffey after the game. Griffey gave Crummley the jersey off his back and a large shopping bag filled with other memorabilia that included a signed bat from Sean Casey.

"It didn't seem right to plea bargain," Crummley said. "So I gave it back to him."

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 team's longest since they dropped 10 in a row in June 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.

St. Louis has won 15 of 20.

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 totaled 43 homers.

Three other active players have hit 500 homers. Barry Bonds is third on the career list with 676, Sosa has 549 and Rafael Palmeiro has 538. Fred McGriff needs seven homers to become the 21st player to hit 500.

Griffey is the second player to hit his 500th homer in St. Louis. Mark McGwire connected for his 500th off Andy Ashby of the San Diego Padres in 1999.

Morris (7-6), who had won his previous three starts, 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."

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