DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers announced Tuesday that they will retire Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey next season.
Whitaker recently missed out on a chance to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He received just six of the 12 votes needed from the Modern-Era Committee, which won’t put another class up for consideration until 2022.
“There aren’t a whole lot of words that could describe how I’m feeling right now, but ‘surreal’ might be the closest one,” Whitaker said in a statement. “It was the honor of my life to wear the Olde English ‘D’ for all 19 years of my career, and share the diamond with so many talented ballplayers along the way. I’d like to thank Tigers ownership and front-office leadership for bestowing this honor on me, and I’m already looking forward to celebrating with all the great Tigers fans at Comerica Park next August.”
It's time.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) December 17, 2019
We're retiring the number 1. pic.twitter.com/kOp1B1cE4g
Whitaker played all 19 of his MLB seasons for the Tigers, racking up 2,369 hits, 244 home runs and 420 doubles in 2,390 games. He finished with a career .276/.363/.426 slash line and walked more often than he struck out -- 1,197 walks and 1,099 strikeouts.
He was an elite defender at second base and finished with a career 75.1 WAR -- a number certainly worth of Hall of Fame induction.
“The Detroit Tigers are one of the most storied franchises in the history of America’s pastime," Tigers Chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch said. “Tradition. History. Championships. Generations of fans have supported this baseball team with pride and passion as countless all-time Tiger greats have taken the field. Today’s announcement regarding the retirement of No. 1 at Comerica Park is a tribute to that history, tradition and passion demonstrated over the course of his career."
Whitaker was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1978, made five straight All-Star teams from 1983 to 1987 and earned three Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards.
Whitaker’s best seasons came in 1983 and 1991. He finished eighth in AL MVP voting with a .320 average and .837 OPS in 1983. In 1991, he posted a career-high 6.8 WAR in just 138 games, thanks to 23 home runs, an .881 OPS and twice as many walks (90) as strikeouts (45).
The Tigers have already retired the following numbers:
- Charlie Gehringer -- No. 2
- Alan Trammell -- No. 3
- Hank Greenberg -- No. 5
- Al Kaline -- No. 6
- Sparky Anderson -- No. 11
- Hal Newhouser -- No. 16
- Willie Horton -- No. 23
- Jack Morris -- No. 47
- Jackie Robinson -- No. 42 (retired throughout baseball)
Ty Cobb’s name is also listed among these all-time greats at Comerica Park, though he doesn’t have a number to be retired.
Whitaker will become the fourth member of the 1984 World Series champion team to be honored, joining Trammell, Morris and Anderson.
The Tigers surprised Whitaker with the news in a Tuesday morning phone call.