Griffey Hits 49th, 50th Home Runs
SEATTLE (AP) _ Ken Griffey Jr. homered twice against Baltimore on Monday night, giving baseball three 50-homer players in a season for the first time.
The Seattle outfielder hit a 449-foot shot off Pete Smith in the fifth inning for his 49th homer, then hit his 10th career grand slam in the sixth off Jimmy Key, a line drive to left. He ran toward first base and pumped his right fist overhead when the ball cleared the wall.
Griffey, who had 56 homers last year after hitting 49 in 1996, joined Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth as the only players to hit 50 or more in consecutive seasons. Ruth did it in 1920-21 and 1927-28, and McGwire has hit 50 or more the last three years.
Hours earlier, McGwire hit his 61st homer to tie the major league record Roger Maris set in 1961. Griffey leads the AL and is third in the majors, trailing McGwire and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa, who has 58.
Griffey’s 50-homer season is the sixth in the American League this decade. Before Cecil Fielder hit 51 in 1990 for Detroit, no AL player had topped 50 since Maris and Mickey Mantle (54) in 1961.
Griffey has 344 home runs in his 10-year career. It was his 35th multihomer game, his sixth this season.
Before 1996, there had been just two seasons in which a pair of players hit 50: Maris and Mantle in 1961, and Hank Greenberg (58) and Jimmie Foxx (50) in 1938.
McGwire (52) and Brady Anderson (50) achieved the feat in 1996, and McGwire and Griffey did it last year.