When Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch has a chance to teach a baseball history lesson.
And so, on a Friday afternoon, he sat at the club with his bowlers—Tyler Alexander, Jason Foley, Tarek Scobal, Will Fest—talking about next weekend’s party.
I realize they knew Lou Whitaker, but they didn’t I know Lou Whitaker.
So give them a task: Bring your phones, give instructions, and pull Alan Trammell on one and Whitaker on the other.
“The reason I did this is because we hold Alan Trammell in such respect because he’s active (in the organization), he’s here with us, and he teaches us, I mean there’s always a smile on our faces when he comes,” Hinch said. . “If he wasn’t there, but he was just Alan Trammell in a different position.
“I mean if you look at his offensive profile, all-star, five-time Golden Gloves, Rookie of the Year (in 1978) – just to open our players’ eyes to what Lou means to this franchise.”
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The thousands of fans who lined the streets before the gates of Comerica Park opened on Saturday didn’t need a history lesson.
Many of them have personal memories of Whitaker’s nineteen seasons wearing a “D.” Old English. The selling audience added another remembrance Saturday, ahead of the Tigers’ game against the Tampa Bay Rays – the black cannabis on the wall above the bulls in the center left descends to reveal the Whitaker’s name and number 1 permanently recorded in Comerica Park.
#1 Tiger will never wear it again.
“This is going to be one of the greatest moments of my life,” Whitaker said on stage at Comerica Envid. “Just knowing that my number will retire, I have a chance to see my name on the wall with those legends from the history of tigers.”
It was sometimes hard to hear celebrity master Dan Dickerson, Trammell, or any of his fellow Whitaker share their sentiments via a video posted on the board Saturday night as more than 30,000 stadium fans sang “Looooouuuuuuu.”
But the message was clear, as Trammell — whose number retired in 2018 shortly after he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame — set the tone.
“Yes,” Trammell said as he took up the microphone. “Why yes? Because for four years, I’ve been feeling uncomfortable. I’ve been very honored and grateful for the retirement of the third place holder.
“But there would be no number 3 on the wall without number 1.”
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Whitaker’s concert was originally scheduled for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of fans allowed in the stadium forced a postponement, until 2021.
To many, Saturday seemed like decades in the making.
The link between Whitaker and Trammell was a common thread – so how could it not be? The two played 1,918 games together from 1977 to 1995, the most combination of double play in MLB history.
But before Whitaker threw a ceremonial first pitch to Trammell—a hit that didn’t have the same symbolism as Whitaker’s trademark second-place finish—Trammel recalled the day they met, at the Florida Education League in 1976, shortly after Whitaker was named Best League player. (Director? Jim Leland.)
Whitaker played third for a long time, but on the first day of practice, the team moved him to second. Trammell noted that if he was coming off a MVP season, and the coaches tried to change his position, he might have said something.
But this is not “Sweet Lou”.
“In typical Lou Whitaker fashion, he did what was best for the team,” Trammell said. “We worked there for two months together, the following 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 lot of history in the Tigers: he’s been a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glove winner, 1978 AL Rookie of the Year, and 1984 World Series.
He is the third-all-time Tigers player, fourth in scoring, second in walk and fourth in WAR (according to baseball-reference.com).
Whitaker ranks seventh all-time in the war among MLB’s second basemen – all six before him in the Hall of Fame, as well as 14 others.
As far as anyone in Comerica Park was concerned, the Cooperstown tribute was also late.
“It’s an honor to have the number one spot next to No. 3, forever linked together,” Trammell said. “And you know what next? Hall of Fame.”
Finally, it was time for Whitaker to speak.
He opened with joking that he “finally” got bowler Jack Morris to thank for his defensive service all those years.
He made a shout out to Martinsville, Virginia, where he grew up since the age of 1 year. No matter the sport—baseball, soccer, or basketball—he and his friends “played ball all day, all night,” he said while citing the city as the reason for his career.
He thanked his family and friends, as well as former colleagues and the late Mike Ilitch.
Then he stopped, and as the circles of “Looooouuuuuuuu” grew louder, he appreciated once more for becoming the Ninth Tiger with his retired number.
“I want to give love to the city of Detroit,” he said. “The city of baseball is great. And all the amazing Michigan fans we have all over this country.
“They love their tigers and will always love their tigers.”
Contact Tony Garcia at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @realtonygarcia.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Lou Whitaker Feels Loved by Detroit Tigers, Fans at Party #1
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