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No. 600 is still the smoothest swing on Earth

Baseball witnessed another magic milestone this week when Ken Griffey Jr smashed his 600th home run over the wall in Miami.

Griffey, who was already destined for Cooperstown before hitting his historic blast, has had a career in contrast, but nonetheless, spectacular despite his frequent visits to the doctor's office.

Beginning in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Junior was the best baseball player on planet Earth.

Grant it I was in my late teens and early 20s during his heyday, but I said it then, and now that I'm older, I still say that he had the smoothest swing in the game since Ted Williams as he leveled his bat, sending pitches screaming toward the warning track.

Junior averaged 53 homers from 1996 to 1998 and hit 382 round baggers in the decade, ranking him as the No. 1 power hitter of the 90s over Barry Bonds, who hit 361.

He also played a mean center field, eating up deep fly balls as if they were his last meal. Junior scaled the wall to rob many a home run and held open clinics on how to make a diving catch.

He was the complete package and had the personal hardware to prove it including seven Silver Slugger Awards, 10 Gold Gloves, the American League MVP in 1997 and being named to the All Century Team in 1999.

But despite all those individual achievements, the one thing that has eluded him and keeps his name from the conversations of legends such as Ruth, Mantle and Aaron is his lack of postseason success.

Junior was the centerpiece of those Seattle Mariners teams that featured Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and a blossoming superstar named Alex Rodriguez.

Griffey made baseball in the Pacific Northwest relevant, giving Seattle an identity besides Jimi Hendrix, the space needle, coffee and being the birthplace of grunge music.

The Ms rocked the Kingdome and made a few appearances in the playoffs, but were never able to get over the hump and win the pennant.

As the main attraction, Griffey took the brunt of the blame for the team's playoff failures and bolted town following the 1999 season for his native Cincinnati, where he hoped to revive the Reds and return them to the glory years of the Big Red Machine of which his father, Ken Sr, experienced in the 1970s.

Early on, a return home proved to do more harm than good as Junior struggled with so many injuries, it looked as if he was cursed.

Knee sprains, pulled hamstrings and ankle woes became a part of his vocabulary and his popularity with the fans as well as the media waned with every passing day.

He soon became a forgotten name in the sport as the Reds continued to lose games as he lost time on the field.

However, now that he has become the sixth man to join the 600 club, he is once again getting his just due as one of the greatest players to ever take the field.

Junior's prime occurred during the steroid era, but his name has been noticeably absent from any books or reports incriminating players of using performance-enhancing drugs.

He presumably could've hit No. 800 or 850 on June 9, had he not spent so much time on the disabled list.

Now, my only wish is for him to find a home with a contender and finally get a chance to win a World Series ring to cap off his marvelous career.

I just wish I still had his Topps traded and Upper Deck rookie card from 1989 and 1990 that I kept stored in mint condition.

Rory Sharrock is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at rsharrock@news-daily.com