MLB teams need to recognize, cherish, and respect their idols, and the Detroit Tigers will do just that with one of theirs.
After retiring in 1995, the Tigers announced August 6, 2022 as the date for the retirement of Number 1: Lou Whitaker’s number.
No. 1️⃣ will be retired. Forever. pic.twitter.com/w37p5xKlWr
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) February 8, 2022
The Tigers announced Whitaker’s number 1 will go to the brick wall at Comerica Park with Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Sparky Anderson, Hal Newhouser, Willie Horton and Jackie Robinson.
Fans, and Whitaker himself, have been very patient to this point: first, the team waited to see if he was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He wasn’t, and the Tigers initially announced their intention of retiring “Sweet Lou’s” number in late 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, got in the way in 2020 and 2021.
He Deserves To Be Cherished And Honored
The Tigers, after all, wanted a real crowd to gather and watch one of their idols, a member of the last World Series championship team in Detroit (1984) being honored.
Even though MLB and the Players Association are still discussing the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) the Tigers have already appointed the date in the calendar.
Whitaker was always a special one.
He was fundamentally sound, and was more solid than spectacular or flashy, as described by his peers.
He was the perfect leadoff man: he had a good eye at the plate and drew a lot of walks (12 percent walk rate) and his good contact skills helped him hit for a solid .276 average and avoid strikeouts (11 percent strikeout rate).
He averaged a solid 81 walks per 162 games.
Whitaker extended his playing career for 19 years, in which he hit .276/.363/.426 with 244 home runs, 1,084 RBI, 1,386 runs, 2,369 hits, 420 doubles, 65 triples, and 143 stolen bases in 2,390 games.
Per Baseball Reference, he accumulated 75.1 Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, making him one of the best players in the history of the game who is not on the Hall of Fame.
An Underrated Star
Only 50 position players had a higher WAR output than him, and only six second basemen had more than him.
You could say Whitaker had a clear case for Hall induction: although he wasn’t a shoo-in, he certainly merited serious consideration.
Besides winning the 1984 World Series, he was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1978, was a five-time All-Star (1983–1987), a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (1983–1985) and a four-time Silver Slugger Award (1983–1985, 1987).
He was universally loved by Tigers fans in the eighties and nineties, and respected by the average baseball fan back then, and even after his retirement.
Glad to see Lou Whitaker get his due by getting his number retired. It was long overdue.
— Rogelio Castillo (@rogcastbaseball) February 8, 2022
While not being on the Hall of Fame is certainly disappointing for him, seeing his number one retired by the franchise with which he played his entire career is certainly a huge achievement, one that he fully deserves.
Loyalty is something that is becoming rarer these days, and he wore just one uniform during his 19-year MLB tenure.
That has enormous value in the eyes of fans.