Ordoñez remembered by Tigers

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    The Detroit Tigers’ rejuvenation was helped by the large bat of outfielder Magglio Ordoñez. Unfortunately his retirement was fused by injuries that plagued him in his last couple of years with the Tigers.

    No matter, he left a lasting imprint on the Detroit franchise. All remember Ordoñez’s three-run, ninth-inning home run that completed the sweep of Oakland for the 2006 American League pennant.

    In 2005, Ordoñez brought his consistent bat to a franchise that was down and out.

    “I didn’t take a chance on the Tigers, the Tigers took a chance on me,” Ordonez, 38, said during his retirement ceremony at Comerica Park. “Baseball is the game that I love, the game that I’ve been playing almost my whole life. It’s hard to leave something that you’ve been doing your whole career, your whole life. Baseball’s always going to be part of my life.

    “But I’m happy, I’m at peace. I think the way that I left the game was the right way. I went to the playoffs, I did good 15 years in the big leagues, playing at a good level. I’m really proud,” he said. “I think the smell of the grass on the field, my teammates, and all the things that have to do with baseball. It’s hard to retire. I’m going to miss baseball always, but this time was going to come. I’m glad that it was today.”

    When asked if Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch made the right move signing Ordonez to a multimillion dollar contract, he indeed made the right move.

    During Ordonez’s seven years in Detroit, Ilitch in return got the organization’s first playoff appearance since 1987, its first World Series appearance since 1984 and its first batting title since the 1960s.

    “It was a privilege and an honor to be his manager,” Jim Leyland told reporters. “You don’t get a lot of guys that win batting titles and hit home runs to win a pennant. Wasn’t exactly the ‘shot heard round the world’ but it was a pretty big home run in Tiger history. Not to mention that he was a really good hitter. Magglio was a really, really, really professional hitter. He was a really productive guy without a bushel-load of home runs.”

    One of the best-ever Venezuelan-born players, Ordonez’s 2007 season — when he led the league with a .363 average and 54 doubles, adding 28 homers and 139 RBI’s, finishing second in the AL MVP balloting — is arguably one of the top-20 offensive seasons in baseball history.

    “If fans remember the way that I play on the field,,” Ordonez said, “the way that I handled myself outside the field. I just wanted, like Mr. Leyland said, people to remember me for what I did the last seven years. I feel very proud of that.”

    Ordonez received a standing ovation as he walked in from right field — his position for seven seasons — clad in a dark suit and sunglasses, with his family already seated in front of the mound. He received a portrait of his three-run, ninth-inning home run that completed the sweep of Oakland for the 2006 American League pennant.

    “He was a star, and stars usually have pretty big egos. But Magglio didn’t have that big ego. That’s why the guys played hard with him. And he was just special,” Ilitch said. “He’s being honored because of the person he is and his contribution to the Tigers.”

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