Junior's dignified 600th stroll
In the annals of Junior Achievement, this milestone looms large, even on his considerable, Cooperstown-bound résumé. It's not every night someone hits home run No. 600, even in these pharmaceutically enhanced times.
It happened for just the sixth time in major-league history Monday evening. If only the setting had been more apt. It's OK to hit No. 600 on the road, as long as that road isn't an exit off the Florida Turnpike. But there was
Before a gathering of 16,003 -- a smattering of whom congregated near the right-field foul pole, all seeking a piece of history -- Griffey joined a most exclusive big-league club. He became the sixth player to reach the 600-homer plateau. On a 3-1 pitch in the bottom of the first inning, Griffey got the best of
"Celebrate, Griffey family. You deserve it!" Grande continued, as TV zeroed in on Griffey's wife and their two youngest children, sitting in the stands, his wife,
One, two, three steps out of the box, Junior finally went into his home run trot Monday. He'd joined five men in baseball's exclusive 600-homer fraternity. Of course, only three of those five --
"Griffey's clean. If anybody in baseball is clean, I'm pretty sure he is," said
On Herzenach's current reading list?
"If he didn't get injured," Herzenach said, "I bet he'd be going for 700. Now that 500's been wrecked [
At 7:51 p.m. ET Monday, less than a half-hour after Griffey went deep and into posterity, this was posted on the
If South Florida was no country for old men to make home-run history, Griffey's hometown hasn't exactly enveloped him in a warm, welcome-back embrace. Since a second-place finish in 2000, the Reds have had seven straight losing seasons and are well on their way to an eighth. Griffey, who belted 40 homers in his 2000 return, has had just two 30-homer seasons since. He's been chronically injured, hamstrung by hamstring woes in particular. Blessed by good genes and bad legs. "General soreness" is how the Reds' recent pre-game notes describe his physical condition.
Yet he's rarely alibied, and never honked his own horn. Never had to. When Griffey hit his 600th, his was a dignified, major-league loll around the basepaths. Not too slow, not too fast, not showy in the least, before hugging his oldest son,
Give Hendrickson credit for pitching to Junior, who was 5-for-8 lifetime off the elongated lefty, with one homer. Since hitting his 599th homer, Griffey was 7-for-17 (.412) with nine walks (think they were pitching around him?) during that seven-game stretch. It's a pity Griffey didn't wait until Tuesday, when the Reds begin a nine-game homestand in the bandbox that is the Great American Ballpark, to hit No. 600. He deserved to do so at home, literally home, even if he and his family now live in gated-community, sequestered splendor in Orlando in the offseason.
He's still a Cincy kid at heart, a Skyline Chili-fed son of a key cog in the Big Red Machine. Yet the Queen City has never really warmed to Junior. Not as you'd expect, or he and the club hoped. The team has a 21st-century stench to it, Griffey hasn't been the Kid who smote 398 homers in 11 seasons in Seattle (209 in his last four seasons alone), and this may well be another endless summer for the last-place Reds.
Come late July, the question may be this: Will Griffey, the sixth man to belt 600 homers, become the first to be traded in the same season? The eight-year extension he signed in 2000 has a club option for 2009. Whatever the Reds decide, Griffey, at 38, still has aspirations to join the 700 club. Who knows how high they'd have been had he not been injured so often this decade? Say, 800? The one 800 club member? Who'll know?
Know this: Junior's achievement was not only extraordinary, but untainted. Welcome him home properly, Cincinnati.