Few players in Detroit Tigers’ history have the level of love and respect from the fanbase that long-time second baseman, Lou Whitaker, enjoys. As part of a legendary double-play combination along with Hall of Fame shortstop, Alan Trammell, the duo were the heart of the Tigers for almost two full decades. And while Whitaker shamefully has not yet received his ticket to Cooperstown, the Tigers’ organization will make good on plans to retire his classic jersey number one on August 6, 2022.
As reported by Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic, the Tigers were originally going to do this during the 2020 season. Obviously, that did not work out. The organization decided to wait on the honors through the 2021 season as fans returned to the ballpark. Finally, a long overdue ceremony will ensure that no player will ever wear the number one in a Tigers’ uniform again.
The August 6 game is a Saturday night contest against the Tampa Bay Rays. The ceremony will take place beforehand. Tickets for Lou Whitaker Night are on sale now.
The Tigers announced plans to retire Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 on Dec. 17, 2019.— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) February 8, 2022
The pandemic ruined those plans.
Looks like a new date is set: Aug. 6, a Saturday night game https://t.co/AuhbRBMWql
Whitaker wore the number one throughout his Tigers’ career from 1977-1995. Since he retired, shortstop Jose Iglesias is the only one to hold the number for multiple seasons, though the Tigers oddly gave the number to Josh Harrison in 2019, a decision that was not well loved with all due respect to Harrison. Only Willie Horton, among all Tigers’ players, has his jersey number 23 retired without also being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Lou Whitaker hit 244 home runs and stole 143 bases over 19 seasons, posting a career slash line of .276/.363/.426, and finishing his career with 2369 hits. He combined that consistent offensive production with brilliant defense, forming the best long-term double-play combination in baseball history. He was a five-time All-Star, won four Silver Sluggers, and, somewhat ridiculously, but such are baseball’s awards, won the Gold Glove three times.
All tolled, Whitaker produced 75.1 WAR, with a career 117 OPS+, by Baseball Reference’s calculations. That WAR mark ranks 52nd all-time among position players, which serves only to point out how egregious Whitaker’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame really is. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric for Hall of Fame eligibility ranks Whitaker the 13th best second baseman in the game’s history.
For all Tigers fans who were around for the classic 1984 season, Whitaker and Trammell hold a cherished place in our hearts. Always a quiet player, with a relatively shy personality, who let his play speak for him and rarely enjoyed interacting with the media, Whitaker has never campaigned for himself. Long-time teammates Trammell and starting pitcher Jack Morris, both of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame via the Modern Era Committee in 2018, have each strongly advocated for Whitaker’s election as well, and we can expect a lot more of that this season.
The retirement of Whitaker’s number makes for the perfect opportunity to push his case for the Hall of Fame, and you can bet that Tigers media, including Bless You Boys, former players, and fans, will all take every opportunity to harangue the committee on Whitaker’s behalf. The Modern Era Committee will announce their next selections to the Hall in December of 2023.