Votto shares his memories of Miggy

September 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

At one point Tuesday night, nearly 5,300 Major League hits stood at first base at Comerica Park.

There was , having hit an RBI single in the first inning of the Tigers’ series opener against the Reds for his 3,160th career hit. There was Joey Votto, manning first base on defense before hitting a leadoff single later in the game for his 2,129th career hit.

For a few moments, Cabrera and Votto chatted, two 40-year-old legends and likely future Hall of Famers exchanging pleasantries. What they chatted about remained between them, but given the mutual admiration between the two, it was a fascinating moment.

“He was, for a stretch there, in the conversation for the best hitter in the game,” Votto told reporters earlier Tuesday. “Multi MVPs, which is really hard to do, Triple Crown, but those sort of, like, personal accolades are one facet. He's also a champion. And he's played on winning teams and been at the core of winning baseball for Florida and for Detroit. I admire him because he's a champion, I admire him because he's played so long, and he has a good reputation.”

They haven’t played against each other often in recent years thanks to being in different leagues, but Votto can note Miggy’s biggest at-bats like he was a teammate. When asked by reporters before the series about his favorite memories of Miggy, Votto recited Cabrera’s famous game-tying home run off Mariano Rivera in 2013 like he was in the dugout at Yankee Stadium.

“His at-bat against Mariano Rivera in New York was pretty special,” Votto recalled, “because when you're anticipating cutters and he throws a sinker and you foul it off, oftentimes, you can kind of gear down in an at-bat. And he still kind of stuck with it, and read the ball, and drove it out to right field. The level of skill in that particular at-bat is so difficult to describe.

"There's a reason why, after he hit the home run, the pitcher said, 'Wow.' One of the greatest arms in the history of the game, a Yankee icon, a unanimous Hall of Fame guy, he reacted, 'Wow.' So in that moment, it was completely justified, because he was probably at that time -- I don't remember what year it was -- but he was probably the only player that could have done that.”

Cabrera has received retirement gifts in pregame ceremonies everywhere the Tigers have gone on the road this season. Thursday’s series finale was the first time a visiting player had a pregame ceremony at Comerica Park to present Cabrera a gift.

Votto and Reds teammate Will Benson presented Cabrera with a custom pillbox bat, painted in Marlins teal and Tigers blue. The bat handle includes 21 rings, representing each of Cabrera’s seasons in the Majors, along with other decorations denoting the highlights of Cabrera’s incredible career.