Miguel Cabrera is now a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball.
The 38-year-old Cabrera connected on a 1-1 pitch from left-hander Steven Matz, sending the ball over the scoreboard in right-center field. The 400-foot homer tied the score at 1. The Tigers won the game 5-3 in 11 innings.
The 14,685 fans at Rogers Centre rose for a standing ovation as Cabrera rounded the bases. After celebrating with his teammates, the Tigers slugger came out of the dugout to accept a curtain call, taking off his helmet and bowing to the crowd behind Detroit's dugout.
"It's something special for my country, for my family, to be able to do this,'' he said. "I'm really happy.''
Jeimer Candelario, who was on deck, was the first teammate to celebrate with Cabrera.
"When he hit that ball, I knew something special was about to happen and history was about to happen,'' Candelario said. "For me, being a part of that is a blessing. It helped us to win a ballgame too.''
Cabrera is the first player to reach the mark in a Tigers uniform. Detroit manager AJ Hinch asked Cabrera to address the team after the game, and the slugger thanked his teammates for their support.
"So proud for him and his family, and a career accomplishment so rare you may never get to be a part of this again,'' Hinch said. "We have no idea who the next person can be to pass this big number.''
Cabrera went 31 at-bats between his 499th and 500th home runs, the third-longest such stretch in MLB history, behind Jimmie Foxx (61) and Harmon Killebrew (43), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Now in his 19th season in the majors, Cabrera foretold his future greatness in his first major league game on June 20, 2003, when he hit a walk-off home run to dead-center field in the bottom of the 11th inning for the Florida Marlins in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.
Indeed, he was precocious enough at the plate as a much-hyped 20-year-old that by October of that year he was batting cleanup for the Marlins in the World Series. He is still the youngest player to start at cleanup in a World Series game.
It has been a slow trek to 500 for Cabrera, who had 446 home runs at the end of the 2016 season after hitting 38 that year, marking the 10th time he had reached 30 home runs. He hasn't hit more than 16 in a season since, as injuries and age sapped his power output. His 500th home run was his 13th of 2021.
Still, Cabrera is one of the best all-around hitters in the 500 home run club. His .311 career batting average ranks fifth among the 28 players; only nine batted .300 in their careers. His career adjusted batting is 19.2% better than the league average, which ranks behind only Ted Williams and Babe Ruth among club members, and he won batting titles in 2011 (.344), 2012 (.330), 2013 (.348) and 2015 (.338). The only other right-handed hitters with 500 home runs and a .300 average are Manny Ramirez, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Thomas.
Cabrera's four batting titles ties Williams for the most among members of the 500 home run club, pending inclusion of the Negro Leagues' stats, according to ESPN Stats & Info research. Cabrera also is the only member of the club who was born in Venezuela.
Cabrera has won two home run titles, as well, leading the American League with 37 in 2008, his first season with the Tigers after a trade with the Marlins, and then again with 44 in 2012. That was Cabrera's Triple Crown season, in which he became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to lead his league in home runs, RBIs and batting average. Cabrera won his first of back-to-back MVP awards during that 2012 campaign, beating out Mike Trout both times.
A few more home run facts from Cabrera's career:
• He has 41 two-homer games and two three-homer games. His three-homer games came against Oakland on May 28, 2010, and versus Texas on May 19, 2013.
• His most victimized team: He has hit 50 home runs against Cleveland.
• His most victimized pitcher: He hit seven off Phil Hughes.
• He has hit seven walk-off home runs, that first one in his first game coming off Al Levine.
Next up for Cabrera: The 3,000 hit club, which has 32 members. He needed 134 hits at the start of the season, and in spring training, Cabrera said he wished to join both clubs in 2021.
"I hope I can get to 500, 3,000 this year," he said in February. "It's one of my goals this year. Mentally, I feel good. I feel mentally strong. I'm trying to go day by day and trying to play hard.''
It appears Cabrera will fall short of that milestone, as he has 2,955 hits. He had one stint on the injured list this year, missing 13 games in April with a biceps strain.
He is still signed through 2023, however, so he should get there in early 2022. The 3,000/500 club includes just six players: Aaron, Mays, Albert Pujols, Eddie Murray, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.