MIAMI - Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run last night, completing his long ascent and becoming the sixth player in history to reach that milestone.

The Cincinnati Reds outfielder homered off Florida lefthander Mark Hendrickson in the first inning of the Reds' 9-4 victory. Griffey joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa.

Griffey, 38, homered with Jerry Hairston on third and one out. The lefthanded-hitting batter launched a 3-1 pitch 413 feet into the rightfield seats.

He received a standing ovation from the relatively sparse crowd and responded by coming out of the Reds dugout and tipping his helmet to the fans.

"I don't think I touched any of the bases. I sort of floated around," Griffey said.

Manager Dusty Baker has managed the last three players to achieve the milestone: Bonds in San Francisco, Sosa in Chicago and now Griffey. He was there for Bonds' 600th, on Aug. 9, 2002.

"It's awesome every time you see a milestone like that," Baker said. "It doesn't take away from the others. It adds to it."

Marlins president David Samson met with the man who is said to have retrieved the ball, whom Samson said he knew. Samson joked about the fact the man, identified only as "Joe," was wearing a Sergio Mitre shirt that had been a Marlins giveaway.

There were reports of a skirmish, but Samson said "Joe" came up with the ball cleanly, and TV replays appear to indicate a man in a Mitre shirt caught the ball with a glove and then sneaked away. The Reds said the man said he has plans for the ball.

Paul Bako had three-run and two-run shots and Brandon Phillips added a solo homer in support of Edinson Volquez (9-2).

Griffey ended the game 1-for-4 with a strikeout and an intentional walk. He exited in the middle of the eighth.

Griffey, one of baseball's most prolific sluggers before injuries began to take their toll, started the season with 593 home runs. It took 216 at-bats to make history - his previous homer came May 31.

"I've been swinging the bat a lot better the last 10 days or so," Griffey said. "I was able to get the ball in the air. I wasn't beating the ball into the ground like I had been." *