Growing up as a sports fan in Michigan during the 80s and 90s allowed me to witness a lot of winning and losing via the professional teams in Detroit. The Tigers of the 80s, the Red Wings of the 90s, the Pistons of the 80s and 90s, and, well, the Lions. My favorite players during that time remain my favorite players to this day: Joe Dumars, Steve Yzerman, Barry Sanders, and Lou Whitaker. Each of these players were the best, or nearly the best at what they did in their respective leagues. Three of these players–nothing more Barry could do for the Lions–helped lead their teams to league titles.
What set these players apart from their talented peers for me was how they handled themselves, at least in public. They were quiet leaders. They did the little things to make their teams better. They appreciated the greatness of others. They weren’t boastful or looking for the spot light–they are humble. It is important to note that I don’t have any issues with flashy players. I am, like many, attracted to the highly talented, but yet unassuming athletes, and probably to that type of person in general. There are certainly exceptions on both ends.
No hall, yet, for Whitaker
Dumars, Yzerman, and Sanders are all in their respective sports halls of fame. Whitaker recently came up short again for baseball’s. I think it is a shame. The arguments for enshrining Whitaker seem overwhelming. I thought this was the year he was going to get in. Over the past decade I have been working to not allow sports to have a negative impact on me. For the most part this has been successful. However, I struggled this past month with Whitaker not getting enshrined.
The Detroit Tigers just announced that they are going to retire Whitaker’s jersey this next season. It is long overdue. The Tigers have a history of only retiring the numbers of the players after they have entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Tigers know Whitaker’s rightful place and have made a stand.
The next opportunity Whitaker has to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is in 2022.
Here’s to 2022 for Sweet Lou.
Worth reading: Tigers’ decision to retire Lou Whitaker’s number brings ‘moment of joy’ by Cody Stavenhagen at The Athletic (paywall).