The Detroit Tigers are finally giving Lou Whitaker his due

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Detroit Tigers

It seems long overdue, but on Saturday, August 6th, the Detroit Tigers are finally honoring the great Lou Whitaker.

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I admire the organization for finally retiring Sweet Lou’s number 1, which will be painted on the bricks in centerfield for all to see now and forever. I will say this; an Ilitch-owned team doesn’t just retire anyone’s number. It’s a very prestigious club when it comes to both the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings. Inside Little Caesars Arena, high above the ice sways banners for Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Sid Abel, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Kelly, and Terry Sawchuk.

On Saturday, Whitaker will join a selected few, including Ty Cobb (who didn’t wear a number), Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Al Newhouser, Willie Horton, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, and George ‘Sparky’ Anderson.

The organization usually waits for said player to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown before they find their number retired. Still, they’ve rightfully made the correct decision to retire Whitaker’s number despite not being elected into the Hall of Fame. That’s a whole other issue. The fact that Whitaker is not glorified in Cooperstown is one of the largest miscalculations by voters of all time.

The Detroit Tigers are doing right by Lou Whitaker.

As Nolan Bianchi wonderfully described below, Lou Whitaker owns the top career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of any second baseman not in the Hall Of Fame.

In fact, Whitaker’s career WAR of 75.1 is better than a host of current Hall Of Fame second basemen, including Craig Biggio (65.5), Ryne Sandberg (68.0), and Roberto Alomar (67.0). Whitaker is known for his cannon of an arm and stellar defense, but he could also hit the cover off the baseball. Whitaker and Trammell combined to be the best double-play duo of all time. No tandem comes close to the 19 years the pair spent together up the middle for the Tigers.

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The pair were groomed to perform together, starting in the minor leagues. They made their Major League debut on the same day, notching their first hit on the same day. In his debut back in 1977, Whitaker went 3 for 5 with an RBI and stolen base against the Boston Red Sox.

I said it then, and I will say it now. The Detroit Tigers missed an opportunity on August 26th, 2018, when they retired Trammell’s number 3.

The duo should have been honored in a large ceremony for both, with both numbers being retired simultaneously. As previously mentioned, Trammell was inducted into the Hall Of Fame, and it’s a crime that Whitaker is not, but hopefully, his time will come. I am thrilled the Tigers are doing right by Whitaker and not taking any chances or waiting around any longer.

It just never felt right watching Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias dawn no. 1 and no. 3 for the Tigers, that number combination needed to be removed from circulation the second Whitaker and Trammell exited stage left. But, it’s better late than never, and I am proud those numbers will not be worn again moving forward. Next up will likely be Miguel Cabrera’s no. 24.

Lou Whitaker slashed .276/.363/.426 to go with an OPS of .789 over his 19-year career. The three-time Gold Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger, five-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, and 1984 World Seris Champion amassed 2,369 hits, scored 1,386 runs, and hit 244 home runs while driving in 1,084 runs over his magnificent career. Whitaker also added 143 stolen bases.

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Posted by Bob Heyrman
Bob currently serves as the Editorial Director at Detroit Sports Nation. Bob's writing is comparable to the third starter in a rotation. Sometimes he throws junk that finds the barrel of the bat and gets smacked over the fence, but the odd time he can toss a complete game shutout. Bob is a passionate lifelong Detroit sports fan. Bob loves the city and can often be found downtown taking in a sporting event or a cold beverage at a local watering hole.