By hitting his first home run in more than a week Wednesday night in the Detroit Tigers’ 5-2 win over the Orioles, Miguel Cabrera moved one step closer to joining one of baseball’s most illustrious clubs.
Cabrera hit career home run No. 499 off Orioles starter Matt Harvey, a deep drive into left-center field that broke a scoreless tie and helped send Baltimore to its seventh straight loss.
For the 38-year-old Cabrera, an 11-time All-Star, four-time batting champion and two-time American League Most Valuable Player, another shot over the fence at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon would make him just the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to hit 500 career home runs.
Of course, he wouldn’t be the first to do it against the Orioles. In fact, the Orioles have served up a player’s 500th career home run three times, tied with the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves for the most all-time. Here’s a look back:
On May 14, 1967, New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle became the sixth player to join the 500 home run club with a solo shot off the Orioles’ Stu Miller in the bottom of the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. The three-time MVP ended his career with 536 home runs, third all-time behind Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.
A crowd of 18,872 came to see the defending World Series champion Orioles take on the Yankees, who pulled out a 6-4 win. But those in attendance, despite serenading Mantle with cheers after his historic feat, didn’t get a curtain call from the future Hall of Famer.
“It felt like when you win a World Series, a big load off your back,” Mantle said of his 500th home run after the game. “I wasn’t really tense about hitting it, but about everybody writing about it. Now maybe we can get back to getting straightened out.”
Said Miller: “I don’t care whether it was his first or his 500th, that means nothing to me. All I know, I was doing my damnedest to get him out, as I always try to do. He hit a good pitch.”
After failing to hit one out of the park for 16 straight games, Minnesota Twins star Harmon Killebrew pulled off an incredible feat: hitting career home runs No. 500 and 501 in back-to-back at-bats.
In the first inning Aug. 10, 1971, the 35-year-old Killebrew hit a 385-foot shot into the left-field stands at Metropolitan Stadium against Orioles left-hander Mike Cuellar. In the sixth, he hit another solo homer off Cuellar. Though he cemented his place among the all-time greats, the Twins fell in 10 innings, 4-3.
The 13-time All-Star and 1969 AL MVP became the 10th player to hit 500 home runs, and ended his 22-year career with 573, which ranked fifth on the all-time list.
The buildup to the historic home run was just as notable. The Twins gave out commemorative cups before Killebrew’s 500th home run, and President Richard Nixon even left a note for his chief of staff to inform him of the achievement.
“In case I miss it on the sports page, would you be sure and inform me whenever Harmon Killebrew hits his 500th home run, so that I can send him a note of congratulations or call him on the phone,” Nixon wrote Aug. 6, just a few days before the game against the Orioles.
“I’m glad that’s over with,” Killebrew later told The Associated Press. “When people keep asking you when you’re going to hit it, you try a bit harder. The only time I thought about it was when people were asking me about it.”
Like many of his fellow 500 home run club members, Ramirez struggled to reach that elusive number.
Entering a game May 31, 2008, at Camden Yards, Ramirez had hit only three home runs in 34 games. So when he finally hit a drive to deep right-center off Orioles right-hander Chad Bradford in the seventh inning to become the 24th major leaguer to reach the milestone, it was time to celebrate.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone,” said Ramirez, who missed hitting the home run on his 36th birthday by just one day. “So I was happy to move on.”
Plenty of Red Sox fans entered Camden Yards that night hoping to see history. The man who caught the ball, Damon Woo, offered it back to Ramirez, who said he would sell it and give the money to charity.
“It’s his accomplishment, it’s his achievement, it’s his ball,” Woo told MLB.com. “That’s the right thing to do.”
At the time, Ramirez became only the seventh player in baseball history with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 walks, 475 doubles and a .300 batting average. The 12-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger and two-time World Series champion ended his career with 555 home runs, which ranks 15th all-time.
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“Obviously, he will go down as one of the greatest power hitters of all time,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said that night.