When Detroit Tigers Manager AJ Hinch has a chance to teach baseball history, and he takes it.
So, on Friday afternoon, he sat at the club with his pitchers – Tyler Alexander, Jason Foley, Tariq Skubal and Will West – and discussed the upcoming weekend ceremony.
He realized they knew Lou Whitaker, but didn’t know Lou Whitaker.
So he gave them a mission: get your phones, he said, connect Alan Trammell one by one and Whitaker the other.
“I did this because we have such respect for Alan Trammell, because he is active (in the organization), he is here with us, he instructs us, I mean, we always smile when he comes” — Hinch said. . “Lou wasn’t there, but he was just Alan Trammell in another position.
“I mean, if you look at his offensive profile, five-time All-Star, Golden Gloves, Rookie of the Year (in 1978) – just to open our players’ eyes to what Lou meant to this franchise.” .
The thousands of fans who lined the streets before Comerica Park’s gates opened on Saturday didn’t need such a history lesson.
Many have personal memories of the 19 seasons Whitaker wore the Old English “D”. The sold-out crowd added another memory on the Saturday before the Tigers’ game against the Tampa Bay Rays as the black tarpaulin on the wall above the bullpen in left center descends to reveal Whitaker’s name and the number 1 forever etched into Comerica Park.
No. 1 will never be worn by the Tiger again.
“This is going to be one of the greatest moments of my life,” Whitaker said on the stage erected in the Comerica commercial. “Just knowing that my number will be retired gives me the chance to see my name on the wall with these legends from Tigers history.”
At times, it was hard to hear hosts Dan Dickerson, Trammell, or any other Whitaker teammate sharing their feelings through the video shown on the board on Saturday night as more than 30,000 fans serenaded the pitch with “Looooouuuuuuuu.”
But the message was clear when Trammell, whose number was retired in 2018 shortly after his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, set the tone.
“Yes,” Trammell said, taking the microphone. “Why yes? Because for four years I felt uncomfortable. I am honored and grateful that my number 3 retired.
“But there wouldn’t be #3 on the wall without #1.”
Whitaker’s ceremony was originally set for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of fans allowed into the stadium forced it to be postponed even to 2021.
For many, Saturday seemed like decades of formative years.
The connection between Whitaker and Trammell was a common thread – how could it not be? The two played 1,918 games together from 1977 to 1995, the most double play combinations in MLB history.
But before Whitaker threw the ceremonial first pitch to Trammell — a shot that didn’t have the same power as Whitaker’s signature second pitch shot — Trammell recalled the day they met in the Florida Study League in 1976, shortly after. Whitaker was selected as the league’s MVP. (Manager? Jim Leyland.)
Whitaker played third for a long time, but on the first day of practice, the team moved him to second place. If he was finishing the MVP season, Trammell noted, and the coaches were trying to change his position, he might have something to say.
But that’s not who “Sweet Lou” was.
“In typical Lou Whitaker fashion, he did what was best for the team,” Trammell said. “We worked there for two months together, the next year we went to Double-A together, and in September we were called to Detroit.
“And I think you could say the rest is history.”
Whitaker has a rich history in the Tigers organization: he was a five-time All-Star, four-time silver slugger, three-time Golden Glove winner, 1978 Rookie of the Year, and 1984 World Series champion.
He is third in game history for the Tigers, fourth in points scored, second in walks, and fourth in WAR (according to baseball-reference.com).
Whitaker ranks seventh in WAR history among MLB second basemen – all six ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame, along with 14 others.
As far as anyone at Comerica Park was concerned, this Cooperstown award is also overdue.
“I’m honored to have No. 1 next to No. 3 forever linked to each other,” Trammell said. “And you know what’s next? Hall of Fame”.
Finally it was time to speak to Whitaker.
He began by joking that he “finally” got pitcher Jack Morris to thank him for his defensive service all these years.
He hailed from Martinsville, Virginia where he grew up from the age of 1. Whether the sport is baseball, football, or basketball, he and his friends “played ball all day, all night,” he said, citing the city as the reason for his career.
He thanked his family and friends, as well as former teammates and the late Mike Ilyich.
He then paused, and as the ‘Looooooooooooooo’ screams grew louder, he once again expressed his gratitude for being the ninth Tiger with his retired number.
“I want to give love to the city of Detroit,” he said. “Great baseball city. And all of Michigan, and the amazing fans that we have all over the country.
“They love their tigers and will always love their tigers.”
Contact Tony Garcia at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @realtonygarcia.
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Lou Whitaker Feels Love From Detroit Tigers, Fans At Ceremony #1