Whitaker bats at Tiger Stadium in 1981
May 12, 1957 |
Brooklyn, New York
|September 9, 1977, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 1, 1995, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||1,084|
|Career highlights and awards|
Louis Rodman Whitaker, Jr. (born May 12, 1957), nicknamed "Sweet Lou", is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) player. Whitaker was a second baseman for the Detroit Tigers from 1977 to 1995. Along with teammate Alan Trammell, Whitaker was part of the longest running "double play" combination in major league history.
Professional playing career
Whitaker first played with shortstop Alan Trammell while with the old Double-A Montgomery Rebels. The two first played together in the major leagues when they were both called up to Detroit at the end of the 1977 season. Both players became starters by the end of April 1978. 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.
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. Whitaker reached two career milestones in 1992, recording both his 2,000th hit and his 200th home run.
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 immensely popular player in Detroit and during his career was greeted by chants of "LOUUUUUUUUUU", which sounded a lot like boos at Tiger Stadium. He was an effective leadoff man, adept at drawing walks, 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 and became an instructor with 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.
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.
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.
Although the team had not officially retired Whitaker's jersey, there was some debate among fans on social media outlets and on sportstalk 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.
Whitaker is ineligible for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America; 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 fifteen votes, or 2.9%. This surprised many observers, including Bill James, who named Whitaker the thirteenth-best second baseman of all time in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Whitaker will be eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee beginning in 2016.
- 1984 Detroit Tigers season
- List of Major League Baseball career home run leaders
- List of Gold Glove middle infield duos
- List of Major League Baseball career hits leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career doubles leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career runs scored leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career runs batted in leaders
- List of Major League Baseball players who spent their entire career with one franchise
- http://blog.detroitathletic.com/2009/07/09/alan-trammell-lou-whitaker-on-magnum-p-i/ Detroit Athletic Co.
- http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20100127/SPORTS0104/1270326/1004/SPORTS/No-Lou-Whitaker-at-Tigers-spring-training Detroit News
- Bill James Baseball Abstract 2001 ISBN 0-684-80697-5