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Tigers to retire Lou Whitaker’s number

Sports Contributor Archive 2018

DETROIT - 1987: Lou Whitaker of the Detroit Tigers bats during an MLB game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan during the 1987 season. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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The Detroit Tigers are breaking with precedent and retiring a player’s number who has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.* That player is Lou Whitaker. His number 1 will be retired next season, the Tigers just announced.

It’s being done, I presume, because like the rest of us, the Tigers are tired of waiting for the Hall of Fame to get its act together with respect to Whitaker’s more-then-worthy candidacy. A candidacy which was snubbed once again last week by the Modern Baseball Era Committee.

I’ve been advocating for the Tigers to retire Whitaker’s number for some time. As I wrote over four years ago, when both his number 1 and Alan Trammell’s number 3 were both being worn by other players:

. . . there is no reason whatsoever those numbers should be worn by anyone but Trammell and Whitaker. There is no reason their numbers should not be out on that brick wall in the outfield alongside Charlie Gehringer’s 2, Hank Greenberg’s 5, Al Kaline’s 6, Sparky Anderson’s 11, Hal Newhouser’s 16, and Willie Horton’s 23. Simply put, the biggest stars of every Tigers era have been honored by the team except for the era which may have seen its greatest sustained success. This is unconscionable . . . The organization should give the fans, who have flocked to Comerica Park for years and years, a special day next spring. A day on which Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler present Trammell and Whitaker with their numbers and The Tigers present Trammell and Whitaker with the honor they deserve.

Trammell, of course, got the honor after his Hall of Fame induction. Gary Sheffield and Ian Kinsler each wore his number 3 after he did, but no one else has or ever will. Since Whitaker retired Iglesias and then, last year, Josh Harrison wore number 1. Now no one else will.

As it should be.

*Willie Horton’s number 23 was eventually retired despite his not being in the Hall of Fame, primarily on the power of Horton’s stature in the Detroit community as a native of the city and a long-time Tigers front office employee and team ambassador.