The retirement of Lou Whitaker’s jersey number was a moment many Tigers fans thought might never come. Historically, the Tigers have been notoriously stingy in terms of number retirement, only giving the special distinction to former players or managers who found their way into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
To date, there were only eight Tigers players whose numbers the team saw fit to retire, and a ninth retired number being that of legend Jackie Robinson. Of all those eight numbers, every single player (and manager) has a plaque in Cooperstown: Charlie Gehringer (2); Alan Trammell (3); Hank Greenberg (5); Al Kaline (6); “Sparky” Anderson (11); Hal Newhouser (16); Willie Horton (23); and Jack Morris (47).
On August 6th, the Tigers will add a 10th number to the wall, the ninth Tigers player to have his number retired, and it will belong to Lou Whitaker, the only player in the mix to not be in the Hall of Fame.
It’s a bittersweet moment, because every Tigers fan, and most baseball historians, know that Lou belongs in Cooperstown alongside his double-play partner Alan Trammell. For only one half of that dynamic duo to be considered Hall of Fame worthy is a slight no matter which way you look at it, and Trammell himself has been a vocal advocate for Lou belonging in the Hall with him.
Lou Whitaker ranks 13th all-time in JAWS for second basement. JAWS, the metric established by FanGraphs writer Jay Jaffe to assess peak career WAR and player worthiness for the Hall of Fame, does a really solid job of grading out which players have a case for a Hall of Fame career. Lou Whitaker is one of only two retired players in the top 15 who arent in the Hall of Fame, the other being Bobby Grich (there is an entire other wave of discourse surrounding Grich being overlooked, but we’re not going to dwell on that here). The fact Whitaker has a career WAR of 75.1, which is actually better than many inductees above him on the list, shines an unfortunate spotlight on his exclusion.
Whitaker belongs in the Hall of Fame, and at this point the only way he’s going to get there is by a vote from the Hall’s Eras Committees, which has thus far done the dynamic infielder dirty. Perhaps by the Tigers finally taking the proper steps to honor one of their all-time great players, the Era voters might begin to pay attention to someone whose trip to Cooperstown is long overdue.
As for the Tigers, it’s a joy to see them spend this week putting Lou in the spotlight, and seeing his number 1 on the outfield bricks is going to bring more than a few stoic fans to tears on Saturday night.
Enjoy some of the best content about Whitaker from the past week.
We have a special guest helping us honor Lou today.
You’ll wanna arrive early for this.
️ Gates open at 4:00 ET
Be in your seats at 5:15 ET pic.twitter.com/msRNIoancS
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 6, 2022
The Hall of Fame is proud to join the @tigers & baseball fans everywhere in celebrating the jersey number retirement of Lou Whitaker, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2000.
— Michigan Sports HOF (@MSHOF) August 5, 2022
The Tigers are retiring Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey during a ceremony on Saturday.
Whitaker will be the 10th player in franchise history with his number retired. pic.twitter.com/AYZJDAixr0
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 6, 2022
Happy Lou Whitaker Day, everyone.