The Spirit of Pittsburgh in Detroit

Duquense University chapel. The school was originally called the College of the Holy Ghost.

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera was born in Venezuela. He signed with the Florida Marlins when he was just 16 years old, worked his way through the minor leagues, and debuted in the big leagues four years later, hitting a walk-off home run in his first game. Like most major leaguers, Cabrera didn’t go to Duquesne University; he never went to college. Yet Cabrera wears a Duquesne t-shirt just about every day under his uniform. It’s his lucky charm.

Why did Cabrera pick a Catholic University in Pittsburgh? His minor league career never landed him in Pennsylvania. He played in Utica, NY, Geveva, Il, Santo Domingo East, Fl, but never in Pitt. Duquesne does share a big gothic “D” with the Tigers, but Cabrera’s Duquense T-shirt predates his move to Motown. It was given to him years ago by minor league teammate Josh Wilson, whose dad is Duquesne’s baseball coach. Cabrera wore it when he was called up to the majors.

The T-shirt then might represent the enduring bond of friendship. Or it could signal the fantasy of a different life – one that included lazy days at Catholic college in the heartland instead of a roving series of dugouts and wads of chewing tobacco. Perhaps, the Duquense “D” is like the opposite of Superman’s “S.” It conceals the Clark Kent under Cabrera’s Tiger uniform.

Or maybe it’s just superstition for superstition’s sake. Baseball players are known for eating the same sandwich at the same Subway before every game or urinating on their own hands. What’s more, Cabrera is reportedly a babaloa, or high priest, of Santeria. It could be that the Duquense shirt summons an orisha, a spirit that moves the baseball.

Whatever the case, it’s working. Cabrera is near the top of the league in most offensive categories (second in OPS and third in batting average), and he’s helping lead the Tigers to the playoffs. The T-shirt craze is catching. The Detroit Free Press recently reported that Duquesne shirts were popping up throughout the Tigers clubhouse. Jim Leyland has one. An old wise man, Leyland must be thinking, with the Yankees looming, he needs all the spiritual help he can get.

nice piece Mr. Kelley. your newphew appreciates it!

— tys    Sep 25, 07:01 PM    #

Wow!! Who knew an MLB All-Star secretly supports Duquesne University, a catholic school that no longer has a baseball team?! Great Read

Ryan    Jan 21, 10:15 PM    #

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