In his fourth at-bat in Thursday's 5-0 loss to the Phillies, Griffey ripped a Cole Hamels pitch deep to center field leading off the ninth inning. But Shane Victorino caught the ball and crashed into the fence, preventing the historic homer for at least another day.
"I just hit it too low, not on the bat, but I just didn't hit in the air," Griffey said. "Plus, a couple of balls they hit to center didn't go out, either. I hit [it] pretty good. I didn't hit it high enough."
After sitting out the past three games with a sore left knee, Griffey looked far more agile before the game and was penciled in as the right fielder and in the third spot in manager Dusty Baker's lineup.
Griffey finished 1-for-4 with a double to deep right-center field in the third.
"I tried to make good solid contact [against Hamels]," Griffey said. "He's been tough on everybody since he came up. You just try to get a pitch you can hit and hit it hard, and hopefully it goes somewhere. Hopefully, it goes over the wall for you."
When Griffey laced the ball in the ninth, Baker couldn't tell right away if it was going to sail out of the ballpark.
"I didn't know," Baker said. "In this park, to the right or the left, you have a pretty good idea. To dead center field, sometimes the ball carries. Sometimes it doesn't. I thought it had a shot. I could tell the way Victorino was going back he had a bead on it."
Griffey did not start the previous three games against the Phils, though he did pinch-hit Wednesday for the second straight night in the Reds' 2-0 win and drew a one-out walk on five pitches from Brett Myers. On Tuesday, Griffey was walked on four pitches by Tom Gordon.
In both of those plate appearances, flashbulbs snapped on every pitch in sold-out Citizens Bank Park. Pitcher Bronson Arroyo came in to pinch-run for Griffey on both occasions.
The 38-year-old Griffey remains stuck at 599 home runs, just one shy of becoming the sixth Major League player to reach 600, along with Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660) and Sammy Sosa (609).
Griffey got the start in right field, while Jerry Hairston Jr. moved to center and rookie sensation Jay Bruce received his first career start in left.
Since Griffey did not hit No. 600 on Thursday, his next chance will come in South Florida, as the Reds open a four-game series against the Marlins on Friday at Dolphin Stadium.
His father, Ken Griffey Sr., a special consultant to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, represented the Reds, along with director of business operations Dick Williams, at the 2008 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Griffey Jr. expects his family to be present when the series opens against the Marlins.
"Either way, it's going to be special," Griffey said.
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.