Monday, May 24, 2004

Homer chase is on for Jr.

He's only 10 short of being 20th to hit 500

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The countdown to 500 began Sunday at Great American Ball Park.

Minutes after Reds center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning, a black sheet was removed from a small landing between the stadium's replica smoke stacks.

Beneath the sheet was a rectangular tote board showing Griffey's career home run total in oversized white letters.

Sunday's home run off Astros starting pitcher Wade Miller was the 490th of his career.

"It gives the fans something to look forward to," said Griffey, who approved the countdown sign when team officials approached him with the idea recently. "Any time there's a countdown to something - there was a countdown to the new ball park - people get excited."

Griffey is 22nd on the all-time home run list, one behind Fred McGriff (491) and three behind Lou Gehrig (493).

When he does reach 500, Griffey will become just the 20th ballplayer to do so. The 34-year-old is batting .237 with nine homers and a team-leading 31 RBI in 40 games this season.

Reds chief operating officer John Allen came up with the idea for the tote board, which also includes a small logo depicting Griffey swinging.

Numbers will be changed between innings and not immediately after Griffey hits a home run, Allen said.


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