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Griffey sits on special night

Griffey sits on special night

CINCINNATI -- While sickness had him slowed, appreciation for Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600 home runs flowed.

To celebrate his milestone last week, the Reds held ceremonies for Ken Griffey Jr. Night before Tuesday's game vs. the Dodgers. Griffey was joined on the field by his wife, Melissa, their three children and his mother, Bertie.

"This is a historic achievement that puts the Griffey name in the elite fraternity of home run hitters," Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini said. "This is a great moment for baseball. Although you've worn another uniform, this town and this franchise will always consider you our own."

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On June 9 against the Marlins, Griffey became the sixth player in Major League history to hit his 600th career home run. Only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa have hit more homers over their careers.

The Reds returned home the day after Griffey hit No. 600, but a formal celebration of his feat was delayed because the club had already scheduled a tribute night to the late Joe Nuxhall. A friend and admirer of Nuxhall, Griffey was more than willing to wait a week to be honored.

All that was missing in the game that followed the Griffey tribute was Griffey himself. The right fielder was sick and was not in manager Dusty Baker's starting lineup but struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Reds' 3-1 loss to Los Angelesa. He entered the night batting .245 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 67 games this season.

"He's looking pretty bad," Baker said. "He called yesterday and said he was feeling bad. He was feeling bad again today. I know he wanted to play on his night."

That did not stop the festivities from going forward.

All fans attending Tuesday's game received a large baseball card of Griffey in his 600th homer swing and a commemorative poster.

The pregame ceremony was filled with numerous tributes, including a video montage of Griffey's career highlights. There was also videoed congratulations messages from Aaron, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones and Johnny Bench. Master of ceremonies Thom Brennaman also read a letter from Commissioner Bud Selig.

"You know you've always been a favorite of mine," Aaron said. "I've always said that if anybody was going to reach 700, I thought you had an excellent chance. Congratulations and many, many more."

A special sign marking Griffey's 600 homer achievement was unveiled on the right-field wall.

The helmet Griffey wore on June 9 was presented to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His batting gloves were given to the Reds Hall of Fame. Castellini presented Griffey with a crystal trophy that said "600."

On June 9, a 54-foot banner of Griffey in his signature swing was erected outside the main entrance of Great American Ball Park.

"It reminds fans that they are witnessing one of the greatest players of all time," Brennaman said.

Griffey had already hit 398 home runs with the Mariners from 1989-99 by the time he came to the Reds before the 2000 season. His nine seasons with Cincinnati haven't always been rosy. Numerous injuries slowed the superstar's production from matching his efforts in Seattle. Fans soured on the 38-year-old at times over the years, but he remains one of the team's most popular players.

That showed as Griffey was warmly received with standing ovations, especially as he took to the podium on the field.

"I want to thank everybody," Griffey told the crowd. "It's been up and down, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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