Finally! The Detroit Tigers announced on Tuesday that they will retire the No. 1 jersey in honor of should-be Hall of Fame second baseman Lou Whitaker during the 2020 season. Whitaker was recently passed over by Hall of Fame voters — again — and will have to wait three more years for his next chance at enshrinement.
Whitaker spent 19 years in a Tigers uniform, and is one of the most decorated players in team history. He hit .276/.363/.426 with 244 home runs and 420 doubles in 9,967 career plate appearances, and compiled 75.1 rWAR — one of the highest totals among any player not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Whitaker made five All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger and three Gold Gloves, and was named the 1978 American League Rookie of the Year. He was part of two AL East division champions in the 1980s, including the 1984 World Series champions.
We will continue to endlessly rail against Hall of Fame voters of all shapes and sizes for keeping Whitaker from his rightful place in Cooperstown, but it’s important to recognize that the Tigers are doing the right thing in retiring Whitaker’s jersey. He is one of the best players in team history, and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. One may argue that this is one way to draw even more attention to his plight, which will hopefully help his chances in three years, when the Modern Era Committee reconvenes for another vote.
Until then, let’s take a moment to celebrate Whitaker’s career as well as the Tigers’ decision to recognize one of their greats.