Louis Rodman Whitaker Jr., a.k.a. Sweet Lou, was a mainstay at second base for the Detroit Tigers for 18-plus seasons.
He and his keystone counterpart, shortstop Alan Trammell, hold the record as the longest running double-play combination in major league history.
Whitaker won Rookie of the Year in 1978, three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. He was also a five-time All-Star.
His sure glove and timely hitting helped the Tigers win their last World Series, in 1984, making him a beloved figure in Detroit sports lore.
Although he was dropped from the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year because he received only 2.9 percent of the vote, there are some pundits who believe Whitaker should be in the Hall.
His career numbers are comparable to those of Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, who retired just as Whitaker was reaching his prime. There are others who argue that once Morgan was done, Whitaker was the best at his position for most of the next decade.
Whether he belongs in the Hall or not, Whitaker’s No. 1 — even though it’s not officially retired by the Tigers — has been hallowed and untouchable since he left the game in 1995.
The Tigers announced via Twitter on Wednesday that newly acquired shortstop Jose Iglesias will wear No. 1.
By most accounts, Iglesias, just 23, has the defensive ability to reach Whitaker and Trammell status before his career in Detroit is over.
But just as it was dubious when the Tigers handed Gary Sheffield No. 3 — Trammell’s old number (with Tram’s blessing) — during his short stint in Detroit, this is sure to raise some eyebrows.
Still, here’s hoping the kid’s worthy of the number and wears it to a World Series title for Detroit, just like Sweet Lou did nearly 30 years ago.