Miguel Cabrera sees clips of his first Major League hit and he laughs.
“It was a walk-off home run. I was like 40 pounds lighter,” he said after hitting his 496th and 497th home runs on July 29, 2021. “That’s what I remember. I played left field. Every time I [see] a picture from 2003, I say, ‘Oh, Miggy, what’s wrong with you?’”
His memory is as good as his sense of humor. It’s almost as good as his bat, which has produced an incredible amount of history over his career, more than even he might be able to appreciate.
As Cabrera turns 39 on Monday and nears the 3,000-hit club, here’s a look at his 10 biggest career moments to date:
Walk-off homer vs. Rays in MLB debut
June 20, 2003
The first big league hit will always be the best. Cabrera was just 20 years, 2 months and 2 days old when he made his Major League debut for the Florida Marlins. After making an out in each of his first four at-bats, Cabrera stepped to the plate in the 11th inning with the winning run on second and sent an Al Levine pitch deep to straightaway center at Pro Player Stadium.
World Series HR off Roger Clemens
Oct. 22, 2003
Cabrera was still a 20-year-old rookie when he got his first taste of playoff baseball, helping power the Marlins all the way to the World Series against a vaunted Yankees squad. With a 2-1 series deficit and a Game 4 matchup against Clemens, the Marlins faced an imposing task. Clemens tried to intimidate Cabrera — less than half his age — with a couple of fastballs up and in, but Cabrera stayed alive in the count by fouling off a pair of 2-2 pitches, then took Clemens deep to the opposite field for a two-run homer in the first inning. The Marlins won in extra innings, part of a run of three consecutive wins to take their second World Series title.
Walk-off home run completes five-run comeback
Aug. 5, 2012
The game itself was wild: The teams traded runs until Cleveland scored three runs in the top of the 10th. Closer Chris Perez retired his first two batters in the bottom of the inning, but back-to-back walks set up an Austin Jackson RBI double and a game-tying single from Omar Infante. Cabrera finished it by turning on a 3-1 pitch and sending it deep to left.
Miggy clinches Triple Crown
Oct. 3, 2012
Cabrera actually went hitless in the final game of his Triple Crown campaign, but the Tigers were keeping track of his competition in the chase. When it became clear Mike Trout wasn’t going to catch him in the batting race, nor Curtis Granderson in the home run chase — though Granderson came close — manager Jim Leyland pulled Cabrera from the field with two outs in the bottom of the fourth to give him a well-deserved rest and an ovation at Kauffman Stadium.
Three-homer game on Sunday Night Baseball
May 19, 2013
Cabrera had the national spotlight on Sunday Night Baseball and a warm evening in homer-friendly Texas to put on a show. He didn’t disappoint, slugging his second career three-homer game. The second homer was the most majestic, a line drive off Derek Holland that kept going until it hit the top of the grassy batter’s eye beyond center field.
Game-tying HR off Mariano Rivera
Aug. 9, 2013
Cabrera was 0-for-4 in his career against the Hall of Fame closer when he stepped to the plate as the potential tying run with two outs in the ninth inning. To add injury to insult, he fouled back-to-back pitches off his leg after falling into an 0-2 hole. Just when Rivera seemed ready to finish him off, Cabrera connected with a 2-2 cutter and sent it over the center-field fence at Yankee Stadium.
“They should make a movie from that at-bat,” Torii Hunter said afterward.
AL Division Series homer off Gray
Oct. 10, 2013
While Justin Verlander’s gem was the story of this winner-take-all battle in Oakland, Cabrera provided the offensive support while ruining the incredible story of Sonny Gray. The rookie phenom had shut down the Tigers’ offense for 11 innings in the series, and Cabrera had been struggling, but Gray made the mistake of challenging him with a high fastball. Cabrera put it in the service area behind the left-field fence, pushing Detroit in front for good.
Miggy’s 400th homer gives him Venezuelan record
May 16, 2015
Not only did Miggy’s drive to center off Cardinals lefty Tyler Lyons put him in the prestigious 400-homer club, it powered him past Andrés Galarraga for the most home runs by a Venezuelan-born player.
Miggy becomes all-time Venezuelan hits leader
May 12, 2021
While Cabrera crept closer to the 3,000-hit milestone, his 2,878th career hit gave him a big piece of history for his home country. His fifth-inning RBI single against the Royals pushed him past Omar Vizquel to become the all-time hits leader among Venezuelan-born players.
500th career home run
Aug. 22, 2021
What was once expected to be a 2022 milestone became a summer spectacle thanks to a midseason tear for Cabrera, whose 499th career homer Aug. 11 brought the spotlight to Comerica Park. He didn’t hit his milestone homer for another week and a half, and he did it on the road, but the reaction from the fans in Toronto showed the right appreciation for an exclusive career accomplishment.