Griffey goes deep to join 600-homer club

MIAMI Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:45am EDT

1 of 3. Cincinnati Reds Ken Griffey Jr. watches after connecting with his 600th career homerun during first inning action against the Florida Marlins in MLB National League baseball action in Miami, Florida June 9, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Hans Deryk

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MIAMI (Reuters) - Ken Griffey Jr became the sixth major league player to hit 600 career home runs when he went deep in the first inning of the Cincinnati Reds 9-4 win over the Florida Marlins on Monday.

Griffey slammed a 3-1 pitch from Florida lefthander Mark Hendrickson into the right-field seats with one out in the first inning for the milestone home run, putting him among some of the sport's all-time greats.

Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660) and Sammy Sosa (609) are the only other players to reach 600 homers.

The 38-year-old received a standing ovation from the crowd of 16,003 and returned to the field from the dugout to tip his helmet to the fans after the home run, his seventh of the season.

"I don't think I touched any of the bases," Griffey told reporters. "I sort of floated around."

One of baseball's most feared sluggers until injuries hampered his career, Griffey reached 599 on May 31 and needed 216 at-bats to finally hit his 600th in the last game of an eight-game road trip for Cincinnati.

His 400th and 500th career home runs also came on the road.

Griffey is in the final season of his contract in Cincinnati, where he has struggled at times since being traded to his hometown team before the 2000 season.

"My father hit 152 home runs, and that's who I wanted to be like," Griffey said of his father, who also played for the Reds, and with his son briefly in Seattle.

The younger Griffey hit 40 homers in his first season as a Red, becoming the youngest player to hit 400 home runs and putting him ahead of Aaron's pace to be the all-time leader.

However, a succession of major injuries hobbled him and it took him another four years to reach 500.

"I grew up watching him; I know what he did for baseball in Seattle," Hendrickson said. "It's just one of those things where I'm going to pitch to these guys and don't back down from it."

His health has improved enough in recent years for him to hit 35 homers in 2005, 27 in 2006 and 30 more last season.

Paul Barko hit a pair of homers and drove in five runs and Brandon Phillips also homered for the Reds. Edinson Volquez (9-2) went six innings for the win.

Griffey wound up 1-for-4 with an intentional walk before leaving the game in the eighth.

(Writing by Roger Lajoie; Editing by John O'Brien)