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On This Date June 20, 2004: 500 on Father's Day

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

It is a Father’s Day to remember, as Ken Griffey Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds hit his 500th home run off Matt Morris in a 6-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Junior is the 20th member of the 500 home run club. Making the event, extra special, his father was in attendance as they hugged after he crossed home plate. Ken Griffey Jr. would retire in 2010 with 630 homers. 

Ken Griffey Jr. as born on November 21, 1969, in Donora, Pennsylvania. His father had been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 29th round a few months earlier. Senior Griffey made his debut in 1973. Playing with the “Big Red Machine,” Ken Griffey Sr. was a speedster at the top of a potent lineup that included all-time hits leader Pete Rose along with sluggers Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, George Foster, and Tony Perez. Senior battled for the 1976 batting title and won the All-Star Game MVP in 1980. 

After the 1981 season, Ken Griffey Sr was traded to the New York Yankees. Senior did not enjoy his time in New York. The consent presence of George Steinbrenner created turmoil in the clubhouse. At the time, the Yankees discouraged family members from being around, as an incident forever soured both father and son on the Yankees’ organization. In 1986 Ken Griffey Sr. was traded to the Atlanta Braves. His son meanwhile was in high school in Cincinnati and would be selected first overall in the 1987 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. 

 When Ken Griffey Jr. was making a quick rise through the minors, Senior returned to the Cincinnati Reds in 1988. Junior made his debut in 1989.  A year later, father and son would play together in the Mariners outfield. In one game, both senior and Junior hit back-to-back home runs. As Senior’s career came to an end, Ken Griffey Jr. was becoming the biggest star in baseball. In 1992, Ken Griffey Jr. was named All-Star MVP, becoming the first father-son duo to win that award. Over the next few years, Junior became a top slugger and MVP, saving baseball in Seattle with his heroics in the 1995 ALDS.

In 1999, the Mariners opened their new ballpark, Safeco Field. The player most responsible for its being built was unhappy and homesick. The Seattle Mariners are isolated in the Pacific Northwest. No team travels more miles each season as they have no other teams near them. With a growing family of his own Junior wanted to go back to Cincinnati and was traded to the Reds before the year 2000.  

With the Reds, Ken Griffey Jr. went through injury-plagued seasons, slowing his pursuit of 500 home runs. He played just 123 combined games between 2002 and 2003. This was after missing 51 games in 2001. Injuries continued to plague Junior in 2004, as he played only 83 games as he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury shortly after hitting his 500th career home run. Junior would lose a large amount of playing time in his prime years to injuries while playing with the Reds until 2008. After finishing the 2008 season with the Chicago White Sox, Ken Griffey Jr. returned to the Mariners in 2009. He would start the 2010 season, but now at the age of 40 was far beyond his prime and decided to retire after hitting .184 in 33 games.