Former Tiger Lou Whittaker gets ready to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday at Comerica Park. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)
Detroit— It was the obvious question. So, understandably, it came first.
What, Lou Whitaker, are your thoughts on Jose Iglesias wearing your No. 1?
“Toughest question, right off the bat,” Whitaker, the legendary Tigers second baseman said Wednesday before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
“The Tigers want to be No. 1, you need No. 1 on the field. He was brave enough to ask for it. He got it. I was a rookie when I had it, he’s a rookie. So hopefully he just has a great career.”
Iglesias became the first player to wear No. 1 since Whitaker retired in 1995.
Iglesias made the request after coming over from the Red Sox in a July trade. He wore No. 10 in Boston, but knew that was manager Jim Leyland’s number in Detroit.
“I guess he went there and saw nobody was wearing that number, it was up for grabs,” Whitaker said. “That’s what he wanted and that’s what he got.”
Whitaker, 56, was in Detroit to throw out the first pitch before Game 4. He noted this was his third time doing the honor at Comerica Park, and the Tigers were 2-0 the first two times — “3-0 after today.”
Whitaker played all 19 of his seasons with the Tigers, forming with Alan Trammell, the longest-running double-play combo in history. He hit .276, with 2,369 hits, 244 homers and 1,084 RBIs, and played solid defense.
Yet, he and Trammell haven’t sniffed the Baseball Hall of Fame. Whitaker didn’t make it to the second ballot because of such poor Year 1 support in 2001.
“That’s a tough question for me to answer,” he said. “It’s in the media’s hands.
“I think Tram and I, we loved to play, we did everything, you know, the way baseball should be played. My whole thing was to, one day, be a professional athlete. I had the opportunity and the rest is for everyone else.”
Whitaker, though, did note he is going in the Hall of Fame.
Already a member of the Virginia Hall of Fame, the Michigan Hall of Fame, and the Florida State League Hall of Fame, now the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame will enshrine him Nov. 10. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y, and grew up in Virginia.
“I’m getting closer now,” he said. “Cooperstown’s just down the road!”
It’s not just Cooperstown that’s not called yet.
The Tigers haven’t retired his No. 1 or Trammell’s No. 3. When that day comes, will a statue accompany it?
“Well, we’ve walked around and we’ve looked at all the statues,” Whitaker said. “Some great players from Detroit’s past are out there.
“Sometimes you just admire what’s there, and wait your turn, I suppose.”