MIAMI -- An MLB record was on the line for more than a month in 2008 when Jorge Cantú secured the Marlins' infield foursome of a place in league history by hitting his elusive 25th home run in September.
To this day, the '08 Marlins infield of Mike Jacobs (first base), Dan Uggla (second base), Hanley Ramirez (shortstop) and Cantú (third base) remains the only unit to have each starter reach at least 25 home runs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In that unprecedented year, Ramirez finished with 33 homers, while Uggla and Jacobs each had 32. Trailing the pack was Cantú, who finished with 29.
“It was a pretty powerful lineup, obviously,” said Jacobs, the only left-handed hitter in the group. “It was one of those things where we kind of fed off each other. Maybe we didn't know any better, and we just went out there trying to hit homers probably more so than we probably should have been trying to do. And it was a lot of fun.”
With a little luck, the ’08 foursome could have each reached 30.
Cantú is still haunted by a ball he hit on Aug. 19 at AT&T Park (now Oracle Park) in San Francisco. The drive to left clanked off the top of an advertising sign -- an image of a car -- that extended slightly above the rest of the eight-foot wall. Instead of a home run, Cantú settled for a double.
“That darn car in San Francisco denied me of my 30th,” Cantú said in a recent interview with MLB.com. “I still picture it in the back of my mind. It’s like yesterday. It's haunting me since.”
For the final two months, Cantú felt the heat to catch up to his teammates.
“Everybody wanted to do better,” Cantú said. “You saw Uggla hitting one, Jacobs hitting one, Hanley hitting one. And there I am, being pushed by my teammates to be better every single day. Obviously, I was holding up the line a little bit. I was a little slow.”
On July 27, Uggla was the first to reach 25, and Ramirez followed on July 31. Then came Jacobs on Aug. 10, leaving Cantú between the entire infield making MLB history.
Around Aug. 10, manager Fredi González and his staff, along with Marlins public relations director Matt Roebuck, noted that if Cantú got to 25, an MLB first would be accomplished.
“It was a conversation amongst us,” González said. “We didn't want to put any pressure on Cantú.”
Eventually, Cantú learned what was at stake.
On Aug. 9, he was at 20. Then Cantú hit four home runs in 118 plate appearances over his next 26 games. Finally, on Sept. 12, off Shairon Martis of the Nationals, Cantú connected on No. 25, establishing an MLB first.
In the immediate aftermath and dugout celebration, Uggla joked to Cantú: “It’s about time.”
“Yeah, he did say that,” Cantú said, laughing. “I was the one hanging on. There was a little pressure there.”
Cantú last played in the big leagues in 2011, and at age 38, he continues to play for the Mexico City Red Devils in the Mexican League.
In an interview with MLB.com, Cantú said recently on Twitter that people in Mexico were discussing the 2008 Marlins’ infield home run record.
“I'm so proud to be part of that,” Cantú said.
While the 2008 Marlins infield remains the only group to achieve that distinction, it’s a mark that has been challenged. In 2019, for instance, the infields of the Astros and the Twins came close.
Last year for Houston, only shortstop Carlos Correa (21) fell short of 25. Third baseman Alex Bregman belted 41, while first baseman Yuli Gurriel and second baseman José Altuve each had 31.
For the Twins, third baseman Miguel Sano had 34 homers, and first baseman C.J. Cron added 25. But second baseman Jonathan Schoop (23) and shortstop Jorge Polanco (22) came up just short.
As a team, the 2008 Marlins set a franchise record with 208 homers.
“It was one of those years that we all just kind of came into our own, in a sense, in the power department,” said Jacobs, currently the manager of the Marlins’ Class A Advanced Jupiter affiliate. “I know Hanley and Uggla hit 20 plus the year before that. But it was just kind of one of those years, we had that offense.”
Team chemistry, according to Cantú, was a big reason the '08 Marlins were able to pull off something special.
"No great player is as good as the whole team going in the same direction," he said.
Cantú’s 29th home run came on Sept. 19, and he spent the rest of the season trying to get at least one more. In his final eight games, he went 7-for-30 (.233) with two doubles.
“I'm not going to lie, every time I was in the batter's box, I was like, 'I need to homer,'" Cantú said. “Now, my head was going to work, more than usual, because that was on the line. That's history.”
The weather also didn’t help Cantú's chase, because a Sept. 25 game at Washington was rained out and not made up, which meant the '08 Marlins played 161 games. They finished in third place in the National League East with an 84-77 mark.
As a tribute to the ’08 infield, the Marlins had a poster giveaway featuring Ramirez, Uggla, Jacobs and Cantú each pointing a bat forward and toward the center under the headline: “Home Run History.”
“At the time, you weren't aware something special was happening,” said González, currently the Orioles' bench coach. “Now, you're like, 'Holy cow!' It's never been done in the history of our game.”
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.