Cabrera’s first manager recalls his star pupil always being in the middle of things. On Saturday, Cabrera collected hits 3,000-3,002 of his 20-year career.
The very best players make a manager want to change the rules. Specifically, one rule: that pesky requirement for a lineup, which mandates that each hitter take his turn. When Miguel Cabrera is on your team, the waiting is the hardest part.
“I wish he could have come to bat every inning,” said Jack McKeon, 91, on the phone this week from his home in North Carolina. “He’d hit a sacrifice fly, he’d hit a home run, he’d get a base hit, even to the point where he hit the ground ball that what’s-his-name booted in the Bartman game. He was the catalyst. Something good was happening with this guy.”
Cabrera was 20 years old, playing for the then-Florida Marlins, when his bouncer flummoxed Chicago Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the fateful sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The error helped turn Steve Bartman — a fan who deflected a foul ball down the left-field line earlier in the inning — from a footnote to a focal point as the Marlins stormed to the World Series with wins in Games 6 and 7.
At the time, Cabrera had collected only 84 career hits in the regular season. On Saturday, with a single against the Colorado Rockies at Comerica Park, he became the 33rd player in major league history with 3,000.
After he belted three hits on Wednesday to get to 2,999, Cabrera’s pursuit of 3,000 was delayed by an 0 for 3 performance on Thursday (and an intentional walk late in the game), as well as rain postponing Friday’s scheduled game against Colorado.
The feat finally came in the first inning of Saturday’s afternoon game when Cabrera singled off Antonio Senzatela, a fellow Venezuelan. Rockies shortstop José Iglesias, who played with Cabrera on the Tigers, came over to hug his former teammate as the Tigers ran onto the field to great him as well. Moments later, Cabrera went behind home plate to celebrate with his mother, wife, son and daughter.
“I think I’m still dreaming,” Cabrera told reporters after the game. “To be able to see 3,000 up there, pretty special.”
Cabrera added a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning for hit No. 3,001 and was subsequently removed for a pinch-runner. The crowd at Comerica Park gave him a raucous ovation and the Tigers ended up beating the Rockies, 13-0. He then added No. 3,002 with a single in the second game of a day-night doubleheader, which Detroit lost, 3-2.