Miguel Cabrera will retire at season’s end ranked 16th in Major League history in career hits, and in the top 15 for doubles, extra-base hits and RBIs. He cracked the top 25 in home runs by tying Mel Ott with 511. He will also retire having spent the final few years of his career on a team that has rebuilt around him with a core of young players who grew up watching his prime years as a Tiger.
It has been a fascinating contrast to follow, especially as Cabrera has gone through his final Major League season being celebrated for a 21-year career that’s nearly as old as some of his teammates. But it has also brought out another side of Miggy that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
“I joke with him, my entire career has been playing with him, and it’s only like 20 percent of his career,” Tarik Skubal said. “It’s pretty special, man. I’ll never take anything being around that guy for granted.”
We ran a selection of Miggy stories from contemporaries, former teammates and fellow legends two years ago when Cabrera was approaching 500 career home runs. As he nears his final game, here are some of the best Miggy stories from current teammates who have been along for his ride into history over the last couple years. For some, they’re milestones. For others, they’re little conversations along the way:
“I’ve got way too many stories. I’ve known Miggy since I was 14. I would say the 3,000th hit was my biggest moment with him in person. Nothing close to that. We went through a lot. But that 3,000th is a really special moment that I’m really going to keep with myself for a long time.”
“I’d say my best Miggy memory would be Opening Day 2021, back-side homer off [Shane] Bieber in the snow. He slides into second base because he doesn’t know it’s a homer. I couldn’t tell if it was a homer; I was surprised we were even playing. I don’t know how he sees the white ball with all the snow coming down. It takes a guy of that caliber to do that.
“It’s like that funny Miggy. That’s iconic Miggy to me. A lot of my coolest moments, best moments in baseball, are him accomplishing something. There’s been a lot of history that I’ve been able to watch and be a part of, which is really special to me.”
“One thing I loved was when we talked about top 10 hitters of all time. I liked where he puts himself, having that talk about, ‘Oh, I think this guy’s better. I’d probably put myself five on top righties. I’ll have Hank Aaron or Willie Mays above me, probably [Albert] Pujols, and then I’m right there.’ That’s crazy, all those names he’s naming, first-ballot Hall of Famers, and he’s right there with them. I enjoy those conversations.”
“So right when I got called up [for the first time in 2019], I had two hits that game and hit a homer the next game. And the first game, he just said, ‘Good job.’ And when I hit my homer the first at-bat the next game, he just gave me a hug and said, ‘Welcome.’ It was freaking awesome. That was kind of my welcome to the big leagues moment. He just kept saying, ‘Wow, wow! Good hitter, good hitter.’ And that was awesome to hear, obviously, from one of the best right-handed hitters of all time.
“I’m sure after that when I fell off a cliff and hit .140, he was thinking otherwise, but it was a wild first couple days. To have that happen was pretty special.”
“There are a lot of Miggy stories. But last year, pretty early in the year, I wasn’t doing well. I was definitely struggling with confidence, and I’d ask myself, ‘Do I belong in this league?’ It was definitely hard. And Miggy, at least once a week, would always come up to me and be like, ‘You’re good. I’ve been in this league for 20 years. I’ve seen it. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be great. Trust it. Believe it.’ And at the time, I was still like, I don’t know. But just having him tell me once a week for two months, ‘Dude, you’re good, I promise. Your swing is good. Everything is good.’
“Just hearing that from him, I think as time went on, I started to believe, like, ‘Miggy wouldn’t lie to me and just say that.’ He believed in me and reminded me when I was at an all-time low that I’ll be OK.”
“My most memorable Miggy moment was when I hit my walk-off homer [for his first MLB home run last July], and Miggy gave me a big hug. That was pretty cool, especially being a rookie and everything. He just had the biggest smile on his face and gave me a big bear hug.”
“The coolest Miggy moment to me was as a rookie, three or four weeks into my career. I hit a home run, rounding third, and Miggy had the biggest smile on his face. And he gave me a high-five before I touched home plate, and it all came to me: This is real. I’m getting high-fived by the guy that I absolutely loved watching growing up, watched all his highlights, tried to mimic his swing. That was, mind blown.”
“When I had my first-pitch home run [as a rookie in 2021], guys were saying before the game, ‘MLB’s going to give you a Rolex if you hit a first-pitch home run.’ I was like, ‘Are you sure about this? I think it’s a myth or something.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, if it is, ask Miggy. If you actually hit a first-pitch home run, he’ll give you a Rolex.’ All right, we’ll see.
“Sure enough, I did it, and he ended up getting me a Rolex the next Spring Training, in 2022. He bought me a Rolex.”
“Obviously I’ve been up and down a bunch the last three years. Every time I’ve gone up, he’s come up to me with a huge smile and talked to me. When you get somebody like that to welcome you, joking or not, it’s special. Even this year, I came up and he was like, ‘Oh, Shorty’s here, we’re safe!’ Obviously it was a joke, but it means a lot when he goes out of his way to make you feel welcome, every single time, no matter what.
“Even now, he has so much on his plate. If you have a good game, if you have a bad game, he’ll say something to you. And that holds a lot of weight with me over the last three years, that he goes out of his way to make not just me, but a lot of people in this locker room feel pretty special. He could easily just be in his own shell and he’s not, and that goes a long way. That’s how I’m going to remember Miggy, with a smile on his face and a big teddy bear, somebody who to me is larger than life.”
“The respect that he has for all players, one day in the big leagues or 10 years, he treats everybody the same.”
“We’ve been together for five seasons, and we’ve been all the time together. We’ve had great moments. One thing I have to tell you: Every time, he makes me laugh. Every time. And one of the things I love the most is the fact that being with him all the time, spending time with him on the field and off the field, it’s always a joy because he’s always fun, he’s always joking, he’s always making us laugh. And that’s important.”
“That first series [of the season] in Tampa Bay, he walked into one of the hitters’ meetings. It felt like the whole team, we were all kind of stressed, tense. I’d just come over [in a trade], kind of tense. He comes in, kind of barking with everybody, yelling, having a good time. He’s just so loose, it felt like he just brought the whole team down to his level and made us relax. It’s cool that we’re here, but we’re here. Let’s compete. He didn’t really say that, but it’s just how loose he came into that. It was super cool, and that’s exactly who he is.”
“One of my favorite stories about Miguel in my three years is Spring Training against Pittsburgh, going to Bradenton. I said, ‘Miguel, we have three road games in a row. You’re not sitting for three days. Which of these three cities do you want to go to?’ He was like, ‘You tell me.’ I said Bradenton, and he said, ‘No problem.’
“So when we got there and got off the bus, he’s looking around [the ballpark] like it’s “Hoosiers.” He said, ‘I have 18 years in the big leagues. Never seen Bradenton.’ It was the first time he’d ever been to Bradenton.”
“The first time that I faced him, it was in Boston [in 2016], and it was him and Victor [Martinez back to back in the lineup]. They were all just, sorry for the word, but they were [messing] around with me on the mound all the time. Every time they got out there, it was like one of the two got on base because they followed each other in the lineup. Every time somebody got on base, they were dancing on the bases and talking trash to me all the time. ‘Hey, you can’t get me out! Hey, I’m right here!’ Those guys, you know how they are.”
“My start in Chicago [a few weeks ago], right in the clubhouse, like 10 minutes before I walked outside, about 50 minutes before the game, he’s telling me with some expletives that I’d better go seven innings. That was funny. It’s kind of a little challenge that he’ll do, especially him being who he is. It was a fun little banter.” [Skubal did go seven innings that day.]
“The day I hit cleanup for the first time [Aug. 11], Miggy was hitting fifth. We were facing [Chris] Sale in Boston, and I think me and Miggy went 0-for-8 combined with six punchies. It was the first time I hit fourth in the big leagues, so I asked A.J. if I could have the lineup card after the game. He signed it, said something along the lines of, ‘What was I thinking?’ And then Miggy signed it with his name, and he put, ‘You’re welcome for all the good pitches.’”
“The other day, he came up to me and asked me about his swing. He struck out and got back to the dugout, and he’s asking me, ‘Shorty, what are you seeing? What am I doing?’ And I was like, ‘You’re asking the wrong guy, brother.’”
“Every time he gets a gift from a team, he raises it up and yells, ‘I got it!’ We all laugh and we’re like, ‘Yeah!’ It’s a lot of fun.”