In our Throwback Thursday features of the past, we’ve ridden the way-back machine to feature a Detroit Tigers’ legend of long-past. Today we look at a more recent Tigers’ star, one that will be remembered for one unforgettable swing of the bat.
Let’s throwback to today’s player…”OHH WEE OHH, MAA GLIOO!”
If you are like me, someone who somewhat remembered the glory years of the 1980’s, (’84 is a flickering memory from my six-year old former self, but I remember ’87 very fondly) and was one of a few select group of self-hating individuals that followed the team through the terrible 90’s and early 2000’s, this memory in the video below will never be forgotten.
Certainly Magglio’s moonshot, which came in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS, was one of the best moments in recent Detroit Tigers’ history. By baseball standards it was not as dramatic as we have built it up to be. The Tigers were up 3 games to 0, so an appearance in the World Series was pretty certain and the game was tied, they weren’t down to their last strike or anything. Yet for fans who suffered for so long through the punchless Tigers’ era, this was the greatest home run of all time.
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The unlikely 2006 run, and the reversal of fortunes for the franchise, stemmed largely from the acquisition of Ordonez before the 2005 season (and Pudge Rodriguez before the 2004 season).
Magglio spent the first seven seasons of his career with the rival Chicago White Sox, collecting two hits in his major league debut on Aug. 29, 1997. The following season he became a regular for Chicago and made the All-Star Game for the first time, the beginning of a a run of three straight ASG appearances from 1999 to 2001, and again in 2003. Ordonez hit over .300 every year from 1999 to 2003 and dropped to .292 in an injury-plagued 2004. Magglio also flexed his power with 30+ homers during that same period, including a career-high 38 in 2002.
Despite his high level of success on the South Side, Chicago tried to deal him to the Boston Red Sox for Nomar Garciaparra in 2003 to make room for an expected trade for Alex Rodriguez. When that trade fell through, with A-Rod eventually going to the Yankees, the Red Sox kept Nomar.
Magglio missed the last 2 1/2 months of the 2004 season with a knee injury. Between this uncertainty, and a strained relationship between player and manager Ozzie Guillen, Chicago chose not to retain Ordonez.
The Tigers were one of just a few teams to give Magglio a hard look and ultimately signed the slugger to a 7-year, $85 million contract, the second largest contact they had ever shelled out. They also put safe guards into the deal to ensure he was healthy and if he missed more than 25 games to that same knee injury, they could buy out of the contract.
Magglio’s first year in Detroit was derailed with injuries not related to the knee and he missed most of the first half of the season. After coming back in July, Ordonez put up vintage Chicago numbers with a .300 average but limited power (8 homers).
The power returned somewhat in the pennant-winning year of 2006 as Mags hit 24 big flies with 104 RBIs. He retooled his game a bit to not try to hit majestic homers (the above notwithstanding) but to play to Comerica Park’s strengths and increase his doubles. It paid off in 2007 when he collected a MLB-best 54 doubles and won the AL batting title with an average of .363. He also amassed the most RBIs for a Tigers player since 1961 (Rocky Colavito-140) with 139.
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Magglio remained a very powerful weapon in the Tigers’ lineup, hitting .300 every year until 2011. A rapid decline sent his stats, and playing time, tumbling. That year he’d finish his final major league season with just a .255 average, five homers and 32 RBIs, however in the ALDS against the Yankees he collected five hits in one last hurrah with Detroit before suffering an ankle injury in the ALDS against the Rangers.
The Tiger decided to part ways with their 2006 hero after that season and, after trying unsuccessfully to coax a minor league deal from a franchise, opted to retire. The Tigers held an on-field retirement ceremony in May 2012.
Unlike many former players, Magglio’s path did not include baseball after retirement (at least not yet). Instead he turned to politics in his native country of Venezula. He now serves as the major of Juan Antonio Sotillo Municipality, elected in Dec. 2013.
The baseball blood runs deep for the Ordonez family. The Tigers selected Magglio Ordonez Jr. in the 38th round of last year’s MLB Draft.
If you would like to see your favorite Tigers of the past featured here, please Tweet us @MCB_Tigers.