One of the best hitters of his generation will officially call it a career this weekend. Magglio Ordonez wasn’t your prototypical slugger — he hit 294 home runs in 15 big-league seasons — but he was a paragon of productivity. A six-time all-star, the former Tigers and White Sox outfielder will retire with a slash line of .309/.369/.502 — and more runs created than numerous hall-of-famers. The 38-year-old Venezuelan won the American League batting title in 2007, when he hit .363.
Ordonez talked about his long-and-prolific career during the 2011 season.
David Laurila: How would you assess your career?
Magglio Ordonez: I played this game and I respected this game. I’ve been on a championship team and I’ve been on losing teams. It has been a really nice ride, from the first day that I played in the big leagues to the last day.
DL: What are you most proud of having accomplished?
MO: Probably just being ready to play every day. I played the game hard and showed my teammates that I’m not better than them. I consider myself really humble, very low-profile. I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I come here, get dressed and prepare myself to play baseball. After the game, I go home. I don’t like to talk about my accomplishments. I let other people do that for me.
DL: How do Detroit and Chicago compare as places to play?
MO: Chicago obviously was the first team I played for — they gave me a chance to be in the big leagues — but the best memories I have of my career are with the Tigers. I went to the World Series and won a batting title in Detroit. And the fans are awesome. I never realized that Tiger fans were so proud of their team. They supported me. The White Sox are a little different, because Chicago has two teams and they tend to pull more to the other side — the Cubs. Detroit is only one team, and they have a long history, so they have fans from generation to generation. I think that’s cool.
DL: You came to Detroit as a free agent. What went into that decision?
MO: When I signed over here, I was 30 years old and said I was probably going to end my career here. Now, even more, I know the fans, I know the city, I know my teammates, the front office. Everybody. Before I signed, I didn’t know anything about the Tigers. Now I’m glad that I signed here.
DL: How would you compare Ozzie Guillen and Jim Leyland?
MO: I think they’re different managers. I know Leyland more than Ozzie; I only played for Ozzie for a few months and we didn’t spend a lot of time together. They’re both good, they like to win; they like to compete. They both know how to win the World Series. But they’re also totally different. Leyland is a guy who is really intense. Ozzie is a more relaxed, because he’s a little younger. Leyland is a hell of a manager and so is Ozzie.
DL: How would you compare Frank Thomas and Miguel Cabrera?
MO: Wow. Miguel is really talented. When I played with Frank, he wasn’t in his prime anymore. Miguel is in his prime. Frank was just a hell of a hitter, and so is Miguel. Miguel comes prepared. He runs, he plays the field really good, hits for power, hits for average. They’re both good. They’re both really good.
I’ve been in the league for a long time, but once you play with another great hitter, you learn from that hitter too. This game is learning every day. Every time you see a great hitter, you watch him and learn from him. Miguel is a guy who is patient at home plate, hits the ball all over the place — just a great hitter.
DL: Is Comerica a difficult park to hit in?
MO: No. Probably in the beginning, it’s harder to hit home runs because it is so big, and so cold. But in the summer, you can hit a ball out of the park. I think it’s good for getting base hits and doubles, because it’s so wide and big. You can get a lot of both, to the gaps. The outfielders play deep, so you can also get a lot of soft base hits, which is good.
DL: You played in Tiger Stadium when you first came up. What do you remember about that?
MO: It was good. At that time, there were a lot of new stadiums. You would go there and be playing in an old stadium with a lot of memories. So many legends played there. It was good playing in Tiger Stadium.
DL: Which players first come to mind when you think of baseball history?
MO: I think for Latinos like me, probably Roberto Clemente. He opened the doors for Latin players. I think Roberto Clemente is the name for all Latinos. I come from another country and play here and consider myself a Latin player.
DL: Is the home run you hit against Oakland — in the 2006 ALCS — the biggest of your career?
MO: Yes. It was an unbelievable moment. The funny thing is I told all the guys — I was sitting on the bench — and I told the guys, “This is over.” I didn’t know what was going to happen, and when I hit the home run, it was amazing. My ears were about to explode. It was an exciting moment for the fans, for Detroit — they work so hard to put a team together. Fortunately, we won and went to the World Series. We lost the World Series, but we made it. We didn’t finish the job, but it was exciting. It was an exciting season and an exciting home run.
DL: One of your trademarks was your hair.
MO: Yes, but I cut my hair because it was too long. It was my trademark with Detroit — they were selling hats with a wig under them — but it got too old. It got to the point where I had to cut it and get a new look. I think some people liked my hair, and some people didn’t. I felt comfortable with it. That’s what mattered.
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