Detroit — The Baseball Hall of Fame has yet welcome Tigers great Lou Whitaker.
But the Comerica Park wall waits no more.
The Tigers announced Tuesday that Whitaker’s No. 1 finally will be retired before the Saturday, Aug. 6, game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Whitaker’s number was set to be retired in 2020, but the ceremony was postponed with fans not allowed in the park because of COVID-19. With the tenuous fan situation in 2021, the Tigers decided 2022 was a better fit.
Whitaker’s No. 1 will be the 11th retired by the Tigers — including the “no number” of Ty Cobb and the No. 42 of Jackie Robinson, retired by all of Major League Baseball — and the first since Alan Trammell’s No. 3 was retired in August 2018.
Trammell and Whitaker, of course, make up the longest-running double-play combo in major-league history. Trammell is in the Hall of Fame, while Whitaker is not.
“No. 1 with No. 3 on the wall at Comerica Park,” Trammell said in an announcement video released by the Tigers on Tuesday. “As it should be.”
Whitaker, 64, played his entire 19-year career with the Tigers, from 1977-95, and was a three-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star. He was the 1978 American League rookie of the year.
Whitaker retired a year before Trammell, and because of that went on the Hall of Fame ballot without him in 2001. The lack of a Trammell connection probably hurt his support. And on a loaded ballot that featured nine players who eventually were elected to the Hall of Fame, Whitaker failed to receive the 5% necessary to remain on the ballot for future consideration.
Trammell and Jack Morris, after missing out on election in 15 years on the writers’ ballot, were elected by a veterans committee and inducted in 2018. Whitaker wasn’t put on the ballot, but found himself on the ballot two years later — when he missed out by six votes.
Historically, the Tigers mostly have retired only numbers of Hall of Famers, with the exception of Willie Horton’s No. 23. After Whitaker missed out on the veterans committee-ballot, the Tigers changed their tune.
“It brings a smile to my face,” said Lance Parrish, a longtime teammate of Whitaker’s in Detroit.
Said Dan Petry, another former teammate: “When I look up there and I see that No. 1, I can sit there and say, ‘I played with that guy, I played with greatness.'”
From 1996 through 2012, no Tiger wore No. 1. From 2013-18, Jose Iglesias wore it, and in 2018, Josh Harrison wore it, both with the blessing of Whitaker.
Besides Cobb, Robinson (42), Trammell (3), Morris (47) and Horton (23), the Tigers also have retired Charlie Gehringer’s No. 2, Hank Greenberg’s No. 5, Al Kaline’s No. 6, Sparky Anderson’s No. 11 and Hal Newhouser’s No. 16.
The Tigers are offering a “Double Play Deal” ticket package that, starting at $65, includes a ticket to Opening Day — scheduled for Friday, April 8, though the ongoing MLB lockout could push that back — as well as a ticket to the Whitaker game. At the Whitaker game, fans will receive a 1984 road replica No. 1 jersey.