Lou Whitaker

Louis Rodman Whitaker Jr. (born May 12, 1957), nicknamed "Sweet Lou", is an American professional baseball second baseman who played for the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1977 to 1995. He won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1978, and was a five-time MLB All-Star in his career. He won four Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Glove Awards. Along with teammate Alan Trammell, Whitaker was part of the longest running double play combination in MLB history.

Lou Whitaker
Lou Whitaker 1981
Whitaker bats at Tiger Stadium in 1981
Second baseman
Born: May 12, 1957 (age 62)
Brooklyn, New York
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 9, 1977, for the Detroit Tigers
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1995, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.276
Home runs244
Hits2,369
Runs batted in1,084
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Early life

Whitaker was born in Brooklyn, New York City. When he was one year old, his mother, who was pregnant with his sister, Matilda, moved with Lou to Martinsville, Virginia, to live with her family. Whitaker attended Martinsville High School.[1] He played for the school's baseball team as a middle infielder and pitcher. Whitaker graduated in 1975, and committed to play college baseball for Ferrum College.[2]

Professional playing career

The Detroit Tigers selected Whitaker in the fifth round, with the 99th overall selection, of the 1975 MLB draft. He signed with the Tigers rather than attend college.[2] He made his professional debut that year for the Bristol Tigers of the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He played for the Lakeland Tigers of the Class A Florida State League in 1976. He batted .297 and was named the league's most valuable player.[3]

After the 1976 season, the Tigers assigned Whitaker to the Arizona Instructional League, where they converted him into a second baseman and paired him with shortstop Alan Trammell. In 1977, they both played for the Montgomery Rebels of the Double-A Southern League. Whitaker batted .280 for the Rebels. The two were both promoted to the major leagues late in the 1977 season. Both players became starters by the end of April 1978.[3] They would remain teammates until Whitaker retired in 1995. Trammell and Whitaker also made a cameo appearance together on the television show Magnum, P.I. starring Tom Selleck, as themselves, during the 1983 season.[4]

In 1978, Whitaker won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .285 with 71 runs, and a .361 on-base percentage.

Whitaker enjoyed a strong season in 1983, hitting for a .320 average with 12 home runs, 72 runs batted in (RBI), and 94 runs. That year he made the first of five consecutive All-Star appearances. In 1984, Whitaker and the Tigers won the World Series. The day Detroit clinched the Series, the second eldest of Whitaker's four daughters was born.

In 1985, Whitaker set a record for Detroit second basemen with 21 home runs and, in 1986, was a member of a Tigers infield in which every member hit at least twenty home runs. He hit a career-best 28 homers in 1989, one of four times he reached the 20-HR plateau, upping his record for the most homers in a season by a Tiger second baseman. Whitaker now shares the season record with Ian Kinsler, who hit 28 homers in 2016 as the Tigers regular second baseman.[5]

Whitaker reached three career milestones in 1992, recording his 2,000th game, 2,000th hit, and his 200th home run.[6]

Along with his American League contemporaries Frank White and Willie Randolph, Whitaker set the standard for defensive play at his position throughout the 1980s. Whitaker is also only one of a select handful of players ever to hit a ball over the roof of Tiger Stadium.

Whitaker was an effective leadoff man, adept at drawing walks (averaging 81 BB per 162 games), quick on the bases, and able to drive the ball with power to all fields. In his 19-year career, Whitaker batted .276 with 244 home runs, 1,084 RBI, 1,386 runs, 2,369 hits, 420 doubles, 65 triples, and 143 stolen bases in 2,390 games. He also recorded a 1.089 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He retired following the 1995 season. Whitaker is unique among long-career players in that he had the highest OPS of his career in his final season, .890 in 1995. Equally unique, Whitaker's OPS actually improved in each of his three final seasons.[7]

After retirement, Whitaker became an instructor for the Tigers during their spring training sessions in Lakeland, Florida, where he helped coaching hitters through the 2009 season. He and the Tigers parted ways in 2010 by mutual agreement.[8]

All-Star Games

Whitaker was selected to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game five times: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

In the 1985 All-Star Game, Whitaker forgot to pack his uniform. Making this discovery just before the game, he had to make do with replica merchandise available for purchase at the park. He obtained an adjustable mesh hat and a blank jersey. He finished off his outfit by scrawling his number on the back in magic marker (or, by some accounts, having a fan do so for him). The Smithsonian requested the jersey and it remains a part of their collection.[9]

During the 1986 All-Star Game, Whitaker was one of the five players struck out consecutively by National League pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, tying Carl Hubbell's mark. Whitaker also homered in the game, a two-run homer in a game the American League won 3-2.[10]

Team records

Whitaker ranks among the Tigers' all-time leaders in many categories, including the following:

  • 1,099 strikeouts #2 in franchise history.
  • 1,527 double plays #1 in franchise history.
  • 1,197 bases on balls #2 in franchise history.
  • 6,653 assists #2 in franchise history.
  • 2,390 games played #3 in franchise history.
  • 143 times grounded into a double play #3 in franchise history.
  • 11,613 total chances #4 in franchise history
  • 1,386 runs scored #4 in franchise history
  • 75 time caught stealing #4 in franchise history.
  • 412 doubles #5 in franchise history.
  • 3,651 total bases #5 in franchise history.
  • 2,369 hits #6 in franchise history.
  • 244 home runs #6 in franchise history.
  • 729 extra base hits #6 in franchise history.
  • 1,084 RBIs #8 in franchise history.
  • 189 errors #10 in franchise history
  • 143 stolen bases #10 in franchise history.

Legacy

Although the team has not officially retired Whitaker's jersey, there has been some debate[11] among fans on social media outlets and on sports-talk radio when it was announced in August 2013 that newly acquired infielder José Iglesias would take over the number. Iglesias was the first player to wear jersey #1 since Whitaker's retirement in 1995. The calls to retire the number have resurfaced with the Hall of Fame selection of Trammell.

Upon joining the Tigers in 2019, Josh Harrison chose to wear number 1 to honor Whitaker, again sparking debate over the number's status.[12]

Whitaker was declared ineligible for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America when he did not receive the required five percent of the votes in his first year of eligibility (in 2001). Despite having statistics comparable to other second basemen in the Hall of Fame (including contemporary Ryne Sandberg, a third-year inductee), Whitaker was dismissed from the ballot after receiving only fifteen votes, or 2.9%. This surprised many observers, including Bill James,[13] who named Whitaker the thirteenth-best second baseman of all time in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Whitaker (and other players who played during the "Today's Game" era of 1988 to the present) could've been considered by the Veterans Committee in 2018, but he was not one of the ten that made the ballot. (His old Detroit teammates, Trammell and Jack Morris, did make the ballot and both were elected.) The "Today's Game" electors will meet again in 2021 and 2023.

See also

References

  1. ^ Wulf, Steve. "Short To Second To None". Vault. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  2. ^ a b By CARA COOPER Bulletin Sports Writer (February 25, 2016). "HANGIN' WITH MS. COOPER- Whittaker a home-grown all-star | Sports". martinsvillebulletin.com. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b https://www.si.com/vault/1983/09/12/619015/short-to-second-to-none
  4. ^ Thomas, Steve (July 9, 2009). "Detroit Athletic Co". Blog.detroitathletic.com. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  5. ^ Henry, George (September 30, 2016). "Cabrera 2 HRs, Tigers move up in playoff race, beat Braves". CBSsports.com. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  6. ^ https://www.newspapers.com/image/99675527/?terms=lou%2Bwhitaker
  7. ^ "Lou Whitaker Baseball Statistics [1975-1995]". Thebaseballcube.com. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Holmes, Dan (July 22, 2011). "How Lou Whitaker's Forgetfulness Landed Him in The Smithsonian". Blog.detroitathletic.com. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  10. ^ "Top 7 performances from Detroit Tigers in All-Star Game history". MLive.com. July 14, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  11. ^ "Twitter Talk: Will Jose Iglesias wear Lou Whitaker's No. 1 jersey? Will Nick Castellanos be recalled soon?". MLive.com. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "Josh Harrison To Wear Lou Whitaker's No. 1 For The Tigers". 971theticket.radio.com. February 21, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Bill James Baseball Abstract 2001 ISBN 0-684-80697-5

External links

1977 Detroit Tigers season

The 1977 Detroit Tigers finished in fourth place in the American League East with a record of 74–88, 26 games behind the New York Yankees. They were outscored by their opponents 751 to 714. The Tigers drew 1,359,856 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1977, ranking 7th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1978 Detroit Tigers season

The 1978 Detroit Tigers finished in fifth place in the American League East with a record of 86-76, 13½ games behind the Yankees. They outscored their opponents 714 to 653.

1981 Detroit Tigers season

The 1981 Detroit Tigers finished in fourth place in the American League East with a record of 31-26 (.544) in the first half of the season, and in third place with a record of 29-23 (.558) in the second half, for an overall record of 60-49. They outscored their opponents 427 to 404. The Tigers drew 1,149,144 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1981, ranking 5th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1983 Detroit Tigers season

The 1983 Detroit Tigers finished in second place in the American League East with a record of 92-70 (.568), six games behind the Orioles. The Tigers outscored their opponents 789 to 679. The Tigers drew 1,829,636 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1983, ranking 8th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1984 American League Championship Series

The 1984 American League Championship Series matched the East Division champion Detroit Tigers against the West Division champion Kansas City Royals. The Tigers prevailed three games to none, to advance to the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres.

Due to a strike by major league umpires, the series was played using local and collegiate umpires, with former AL umpire and league supervisor Bill Deegan working home plate for all three games.

1984 Detroit Tigers season

The 1984 Detroit Tigers won the 1984 World Series, defeating the San Diego Padres, 4 games to 1. The season was their 84th since they entered the American League in 1901 and their fourth World Series championship. Detroit relief pitcher Willie Hernández won the Cy Young Award and was chosen as the American League Most Valuable Player. The 1984 season is also notable for the Tigers leading the AL East division wire-to-wire. They opened with a 9–0 start, were 35–5 after 40 games, and never relinquished the lead during the entire season.

1984 World Series

The 1984 World Series began on October 9 and ended on October 14, 1984. The American League champion Detroit Tigers played against the National League champion San Diego Padres, with the Tigers winning the series four games to one. This was the city of Detroit's first sports championship since the Tigers themselves won the 1968 World Series.

This was the first World Series that Peter Ueberroth presided over as commissioner. Ueberroth began his tenure on October 1, succeeding Bowie Kuhn. Ueberroth had been elected as Kuhn's successor prior to the 1984 season, but did not take over until the postseason as he was serving as the chairman of the 1984 Summer Olympics, which ran from July 28 through August 12.

This was the last World Series in which the designated hitter was used for games played in a National League team's ballpark in the World Series (as in even-numbered years, the DH would be used in all games, which was first instituted in 1976). The next World Series did not use the DH (as odd-numbered years saw the DH rule not in force for the World Series). Starting in 1986, the DH would only be used in games played at the American League representative's park.

1985 Detroit Tigers season

The 1985 Detroit Tigers finished in third place in the American League Eastern Division with a record of 84-77 (.522), 15 games behind the Blue Jays. The Tigers outscored their opponents 729 to 688. The Tigers drew 2,286,609 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1983, ranking 3rd of the 14 teams in the American League.

1986 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1986 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 57th playing of the midsummer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 15, 1986, at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, the home of the Houston Astros of the National League. The game resulted in the American League defeating the National League 3-2 and ended a streak where the NL won 13 of the last 14 games. Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens was named the Most Valuable Player.

1987 American League Championship Series

The 1987 American League Championship Series pitted the Minnesota Twins, the American League West champions, against the Detroit Tigers, the American League East champions. Minnesota won the Series four games to one, en route to winning the 1987 World Series four games to three over the St. Louis Cardinals.

1991 Detroit Tigers season

The 1991 Detroit Tigers finished in second place in the American League East with a record of 83-79 (.519). They outscored their opponents 817 to 794. The Tigers drew 1,641,661 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1991, ranking 12th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1992 Detroit Tigers season

The Detroit Tigers' 1992 season was a season in American baseball. It involved the Detroit Tigers attempting to win the American League East.

1994 Detroit Tigers season

The Detroit Tigers' 1994 season had a record of 53-62 in a strike-shortened season. The season ended with the Tigers in 5th place in the newly formed American League East Division. The season featured the return of former star Kirk Gibson, the return of Ernie Harwell to the television broadcast booth and the 18th season of the Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker double play combination.

Alan Trammell

Alan Stuart Trammell (born February 21, 1958) is an American former professional baseball shortstop, manager and coach. His entire 20-year playing career in Major League Baseball was with the Detroit Tigers. He currently serves as a special assistant to the General Manager of the Detroit Tigers.

Trammell won a World Series championship in 1984 over his hometown San Diego Padres and an American League East division championship in 1987. Although his arm was not overpowering, he had a quick release and made accurate throws, ultimately winning four Gold Glove awards. Trammell's defense perfectly complemented his double-play partner, Lou Whitaker. The two formed the longest continuous double-play combination in major league history, playing 19 seasons together. At the plate, Trammell was one of the best-hitting shortstops of his era and won three Silver Slugger awards.

Trammell later served as Detroit's manager from 2003 through 2005. He also served as the interim manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks during the final three games of the 2014 season. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

Bobby Higginson

Robert Leigh Higginson (born August 18, 1970) is a former outfielder in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Detroit Tigers where he wore the number 4. He attended Frankford High School and Temple University.

Higginson was drafted by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 1992 MLB Draft. His rookie year was 1995 when he played 130 games for the Tigers. Higginson batted .320 in 1996 and .300 in 2000, scored over 100 runs in 2000 and drove in over 100 runs in 1997 and 2000. His career high of 30 home-runs came also in 2000. He twice led the Majors in outfield assists, and also led all American League left fielders in putouts in 2000 (305) and 2001 (321), although he never won a Gold Glove for his fielding. He was never named to an All-Star team.

On June 30 and July 1, 1997, Higginson tied a major league record by hitting four home runs in four consecutive at bats (note, there were some walks interspersed) -- three on the first day, and then another in the first inning of the second day.Higginson was named "Tiger of the Year" by the Detroit chapter of the BBWAA in 1997 and 2000. Since the award's inception in 1965, ten players have been named "Tiger of the Year" on multiple occasions: Higginson, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Ron LeFlore, and Denny McLain.An elbow injury limited Higginson to 10 games in 2005, which ended up being his final season. He was granted free agency on October 31, and he retired at the age of 35. He ended his career never having played on a team that had a winning season.

Higginson is also known for breaking up a no-hitter in the ninth inning and two out on a game in Toronto on September 27, 1998, with a pinch-hit home run. The pitcher, future All-Star Roy Halladay, was making his second ever appearance, and ended up winning his first career game, 2–1.

Detroit Tigers award winners and league leaders

This is a list of award winners and league leaders for the Detroit Tigers professional baseball team.

List of Silver Slugger Award winners at second base

The Silver Slugger Award is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position in both the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), as determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball (MLB). These voters consider several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, in addition to "coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value". Managers and coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own team. The Silver Slugger was first awarded in 1980 and is given by Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats. The award is a bat-shaped trophy, 3 feet (91 cm) tall, engraved with the names of each of the winners from the league and plated with sterling silver.Among second basemen, Ryne Sandberg, who played 15 seasons with the Chicago Cubs in his 16-year career, owns the most Silver Sluggers with seven wins, including five consecutive from 1988 to 1992. Three other National League players have won the award four times. Jeff Kent (2000–2002, 2005) won three consecutive awards with the San Francisco Giants, before adding a fourth with the Los Angeles Dodgers; Craig Biggio, who played his entire career with the Houston Astros, won the award four times as a second baseman (1994–1995, 1997–1998) after winning another as a catcher. Chase Utley followed Kent's last win by capturing four consecutive awards (2006–2009).In the American League, José Altuve and Robinson Canó have won five Silver Slugger awards. Altuve won five consecutive awards (2014–2018), all with the Astros, while Cano won all five of his Silver Slugger awards as a member of the New York Yankees, including four consecutive wins (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). Altuve and Cano's five Silver Slugger awards are second-most all-time for a second baseman and first among American League winners, ahead of four second basemen who are all four-time winners in the American League. Roberto Alomar won the award at the same position with three different teams (Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians). Julio Franco won four consecutive awards (1988–1991) with two different teams, and Lou Whitaker won four awards in five years (1983–1985, 1987) with the Detroit Tigers.Altuve holds the record for the highest batting average in a second baseman's Silver Slugger-winning season with the .346 mark he set in 2017. In the National League, Daniel Murphy's .347 batting average in 2016 ranks first. Willie Randolph, who won the inaugural award in the 1980 season, set a record for on-base percentage (.427) that has not yet been broken. Chuck Knoblauch is second behind Randolph in the American League with a .424 on-base percentage, a mark that was tied by Jeff Kent in 2000 to set the National League record. That year, Kent also set the record among second basemen for highest slugging percentage (.596) and the National League record for runs batted in (125). Bret Boone is the overall leader in runs batted in (141) and holds the American League record for slugging percentage (.578); both of these records were established in 2001. Sandberg hit 40 home runs in 1990, the most ever by a second baseman in a winning season, while Alfonso Soriano set the American League mark with 39 in 2002.

Silver Slugger Award

The Silver Slugger Award is awarded annually to the best offensive player at each position in both the American League and the National League, as determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball. These voters consider several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, in addition to "coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value". Managers and coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own team. The Silver Slugger was first awarded in 1980 and is given by Hillerich & Bradsby, the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger bats. The award is a bat-shaped trophy, 3 feet (91 cm) tall, engraved with the names of each of the winners from the league and plated with sterling silver.The prize is presented to outfielders irrespective of their specific position. This means that it is possible for three left fielders, or any other combination of outfielders, to win the award in the same year, rather than one left fielder, one center fielder, and one right fielder. In addition, only National League pitchers receive a Silver Slugger Award; lineups in the American League include a designated hitter in place of the pitcher in the batting order, so the designated hitter receives the award instead.Home run record-holder Barry Bonds won twelve Silver Slugger Awards in his career as an outfielder, the most of any player. He also won the award in five consecutive seasons twice in his career: from 1990 to 1994, and again from 2000 to 2004. Retired former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and former New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez are tied for second, with ten wins each. Rodriguez' awards are split between two positions; he won seven Silver Sluggers as a shortstop for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, and three with the Yankees as a third baseman. Wade Boggs leads third basemen with eight Silver Slugger Awards; Barry Larkin leads shortstops with nine. Other leaders include Ryne Sandberg (seven wins as a second baseman) and Mike Hampton (five wins as a pitcher). Todd Helton and Albert Pujols are tied for the most wins among first baseman with four, although Pujols has won two awards at other positions. David Ortiz has won seven awards at designated hitter position, the most at that position.

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