Tigers great Lou Whitaker misses out on Baseball Hall of Fame

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

San Diego — Lou Whitaker's agonizing wait will continue for another three years.

On Sunday, the 16-member Modern Era Committee voted into the Hall of Fame Southfield native Ted Simmons, as well as late executive Marvin Miller, who among a long list of game-changing contributions built the Major League Baseball Players Association and created free agency.

Whitaker, in his first year of consideration on this ballot, got just six votes, six shy of the 12 needed for induction. The committee will not convene again until 2022.  

Lou Whitaker

Whitaker got just 2.9 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America back in 2001 and was removed from the BBWAA ballot.

The 16-member committee included his contemporaries — George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount — all enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Also on the committee were former Tigers president Dave Dombrowski, executives Sandy Alderson, David Glass, Walk Jocketty, Doug Melvin and Terry Ryan, plus media members Bill Center, Tracy Ringolsby, Jack O’Conell and Steve Hirdt.

Here's how the voting went:

► Simmons 13

► Miller 12

► Dwight Evans 8

► Dave Parker 7

► Steve Garvey 6

► Whitaker 6

Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Tommy John and Dale Murphy got three votes or fewer. Players with at least three votes will remain on the ballot in 2022. 

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Simmons, 70, graduated from Southfield High School in 1967 and was in the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals within a year. A switch-hitting catcher, he posted a career average of .285 with 248 home runs and 1,389 RBIs, playing for the Cardinals (he caught Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson's lone no-hitter), Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves.

The eight-time All-Star played 21 seasons in the big leagues. 

He is the fifth Michigan-born player in the Hall of Fame. He joins Kiki Cuyler, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser and John Smoltz.

Miller, a union leader who died at age 95 in 2012, revolutionized baseball by empowering players to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts and to play for teams of their own choosing.

Miller led the MLB Players Association from 1966-82, a time when players gained the right to free agency after six seasons of big league service, to salary arbitration and to grievance arbitration. He led the union through five work stoppages and was an adviser during three more after he retired.

Both will be inducted into Cooperstown during ceremonies on July 26 along with any players chosen next month by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America from a ballot headed by former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Whitaker played second base for the Tigers for 19 seasons, accumulating 2,390 games between 1977 and 1995. He and Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell became the most prolific double-play tandem in the history of the game, turning 1,918 double plays.

He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1978 and earned five All-Star berths and won three Gold Gloves. His 6,653 career assists were sixth most by a second baseman.

Also, he has the highest WAR of any second baseman not enshrined in Cooperstown, his 75.1 WAR trailing only Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, Rod Carew and Gehringer.

And yet, a plaque in Cooperstown remains, startlingly, beyond his grasp. 


Twitter: @cmccosky

Alan Trammell greets longtime double play partner Lou Whitaker after Whitaker spoke during a ceremony to retire Trammell's jersey at Comerica Park in August 2018.

Lou Whitaker by the numbers 

Born: May 12, 1957

Drafted: Fifth round, 1975

MLB debut: Sept. 9, 1977

First MLB hit: Sept. 9, 1977, first inning single off Boston’s Reggie Cleveland

First MLB home run: July 28, 1978, walk-off, two-run shot off Seattle’s Enrique Romo at Tiger Stadium

Career: 19 seasons, 2,390 games, all with Tigers

Career earnings: $19,890,000

Rookie of the Year: 1978

All-Star: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987

Gold Glove: 1983, 1984, 1985

Silver Slugger: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987

Batting average: .276

On-base percentage: .363

Slugging percentage: .789

Hits: 2,369

Doubles: 420

Home runs: 244

Runs: 1,386

RBIs: 1,084

WAR: 75.1