If you grew up in the 1990s and loved baseball, it was required that you spent time alone in your bedroom re-watching Ken Griffey Jr. home runs while imitating his swing and strut. I’m pretty sure it was a law. To be real, though, if I had to watch him hit baseballs on loop for hours on end with no break, I wouldn’t be mad at all. I’d be excited.
Although injuries derailed him from challenging Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list, finishing with the seventh-most home runs all time and being a near-unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer is not a bad alternative. If you’re looking for another sweet swing that can torch baseballs, be sure to also check out milestone Miguel Cabrera home runs through the years.
Milestone Ken Griffey Jr. Home Runs
After watching his first career homer fly out of the yard, we’ll check out his 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th, 500th, 600th, and his final dinger, as well as the excellent timing he had for some of them.
April 10, 1989: Home Run #1 vs. White Sox
Talk about perfect timing – as a 19-year-old already in the big leagues, Ken Griffey Jr.’s first career home run came on his father’s birthday, who was playing for the Cincinnati Reds at the time. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and enjoyed a solid year at the dish.
Through his first 506 MLB plate appearances, Griffey posted 2.5 fWAR with a 106 wRC+ with 16 home runs, 61 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases for the Mariners. It was the last “normal” year he’d have for a while since his wRC+ didn’t dip below 120 and his fWAR didn’t finish below 4.0 again until 2001 when he was limited to just 111 games for the Reds.
June 15, 1993: Home Run #100 vs. Royals
Between 1990 and 1992, Griffey showed he was an elite player for the Mariners. He grabbed three straight Gold Glove awards, posted three straight seasons of at least 5.0 fWAR, hit a combined .311/.376/.513, and averaged 24 homers with 94 RBI over that period.
However, 1993 was the true Hall of Fame level breakout. In addition to appearing in the All-Star Game, winning another Gold Glove, and taking home a Silver Slugger, he finished fifth in AL MVP voting thanks to a .309/.408/.617 line with 45 home runs, 109 RBI, 113 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases. That offensive performance led to a 164 wRC+ (a single-season career-high mark) and 8.4 fWAR.
And let’s not forget, he did this all in his age-23 season. That’ll continue to be the theme throughout this article.
May 21, 1996: Home Run #200 vs. Red Sox
From the standpoint of fWAR, 1996 was Griffey’s finest work, as he posted 9.7 fWAR in 140 games played. At that time, he had enjoyed his third season of 40-plus homers and set a new career-high for the time being with 49 dingers and 140 RBI.
Since he did this during his age-26 season, this dinger helped him become the seventh-youngest MLB player in history to reach that number. There’s also something special about hitting a milestone home run at a historic stadium like Fenway Park. Just hits a little differently.
This was his first full season since that 1993 breakout, as he played just 111 games in 1994 because of the strike and 72 in 1995 because of a broken wrist. This ended up starting the unequivocal peak of his Hall of Fame career, which included five straight seasons with at least 40 homers and 115 RBI.
April 13, 1998: Home Run #300 vs. Guardians
Can you imagine what it feels like to hit 300 homers in the big leagues before you turn 30 years old? How about before you turn 29 years old? Only a select few know what that feels like, and Griffey is one of them. At the time of this homer, he was the second-youngest hitter to reach the milestone.
He was fresh off a 1997 season where he led baseball with 56 home runs and 147 RBI en route to finally winning his first (and only) MVP award. Little did he know at the time of this homer, but he was on his way to having a very similar season. Check this out:
I love this so much…
Ken Griffey Jr. in '97: 34 2B, 3 3B, 56 HR, 147 RBI, 76 BBs, 121 Ks
Ken Griffey Jr. in '98: 33 2B, 3 3B, 56 HR, 146 RBI, 76 BBs, 121 Ks
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) September 7, 2021
Yes, with all those close similarities, he hit his 50th homer of the year on the same exact day, two years in a row.
Griffey came in fourth for the AL MVP voting in 1998, but he just further cemented himself as an inner-circle Hall of Famer, and he wasn’t even 30 years old yet. When you hit 112 homers over the span of two seasons, it’s easy to make quick work of the all-time leaderboard while ascending to the top. After coming up short a couple of times in the recent past, Griffey also etched his name among MLB’s Home Run Derby winners during the All-Star break.
April 10, 2000: Home Run #400 vs. Rockies
Yes, you read that date correctly – this was the second time in Griffey’s career that he hit a milestone home run on his father’s birthday. This one was a little extra special because he became the youngest to reach that number at the young age of 30.
Thanks to an incredibly powerful few years in the late ‘90s, The Kid put himself in what seemed to be a favorable position to challenge Hank Aaron’s career homer record of 755. I mean, when you rifle through 100 homers every couple of years, it’s hard not to think about that. The 2000 season was also his first with the Cincinnati Reds after getting traded and signing a big extension with the organization.
He may have been exiting his physical prime, but it didn’t look that way, as he was selected to his 11th consecutive All-Star team while slashing .271/.387/.556 with 40 homers, 118 RBI, and 100 runs scored. It was the fifth straight year he slugged at least 40 dingers with 100-plus RBI and 100-plus runs scored.
But unfortunately, that’s when the injury bug started to bite, as he played in just 158 games between 2002 and 2004.
June 20th, 2004: Home Run #500 vs. Cardinals
The every-two-years-for-a-milestone-homer streak ended, but by the time Griffey entered the 500-homer club in 2004, he did it on what was already a memorable day. After hitting his 400th dinger on his father’s 50th birthday, he hit number 500 on Father’s Day, with his dad in attendance.
He had an excellent first half for the Reds, hitting .251/.350/.512 with 20 homers, 17 doubles, 60 RBI, and 48 runs scored through 343 plate appearances. It was so excellent that he was selected to another All-Star team – the second-to-last time he received that honor. Unfortunately for him and Cincinnati, that was as good as it’d get because of a torn hamstring. He appeared in just three games (five plate appearances) after the All-Star break, and he had season-ending surgery on August 16th.
June 9, 2008: Home Run #600 vs. Marlins
As Griffey continued progressing through his 30s as a ballplayer, it took him nearly four years to the day to get from 500 homers to 600 homers, but he made it there with the Reds before they traded him to the Chicago White Sox. He ended up hitting 15 dingers for Cincinnati in 425 plate appearances prior to being dealt at the non-waiver trade deadline.
He’d hit three more that season with Chicago, with the first one being number 609, which tied him for fifth all-time with Sammy Sosa on the all-time list.
October 3, 2009: Home Run #630 vs. Rangers
After spending a historic 11 seasons with the Mariners to begin his Hall of Fame career, Griffey signed a one-year deal to return to Seattle for his age-39 season. He hit his 19th and final homer of the year in the second-to-last game of the season. He would come back for 2010 but appeared in just 33 games and decided to retire after slashing .184/.250/.204 with no homers through his first 108 plate appearances.
Who knows where Griffey could’ve landed on the all-time home run list if he didn’t miss the equivalent of two full seasons between 2002 and 2004 because of injuries. But still, finishing with 630 homers over the span of 22 years is incredible. And we can’t forget about the style/swag he brought to the game when nobody else was really doing it.
He was a generational player and talent in all aspects of the word.