To take a break from talking about the players should the Tigers should go after or rid themselves of, I thought it might be interesting to look at what the Tigers should do regarding their history, rather than their future. The Tigers have a long rich history as one of the American League’s original teams. Each generation they had a new superstar or superstars. Ty Cobb was in the very first class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hank Greenberg was one of the most feared power hitters of the 20th Century, and Al Kaline is a baseball icon. However, when you look at the Outfield walls of Comerica Park to see the names and numbers of Tiger legends and beyond the stands in LF to see the statues honoring the great Tigers of yesteryear, one thing is very noticeable…yesteryear was a LONG time ago.
The players and numbers that have been ordained in Tiger sainthood are the players our parents and grandparents (and great-grandparents) watched at Tiger Stadium (or Navin Field or Briggs Stadium). What about the players we idolized growing up? Specifically, the two players who represent almost 2 decades of Tiger excellence – the inseparable Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, numbers 1 and 3.
Each year that the new class of Hall of Famers is announced, many Tigers fans will start up a chorus calling for Tram’s and Lou’s induction into the Hall of Fame. “Greatest Double Play Combination EVER” some will say. “Two of the best players of the 80’s” others will shout. Each has their own merits, but when considered together (which would likely be a first for the HOF) it is much harder to argue against their inclusion. However, this article isn’t about that. No, it is about how the TIGERS should be honoring them. How can we expect our heroes to get national recognition and honors when our own organization has not bestowed their highest honors upon them?
Beyond Left Field, the Tigers have a row of statues honoring players from past generations – Ty Cobb, Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Willie Horton. Given that Willie Horton is included, we know that HOF election is not a precursor to being honored by the Tigers with a statue. Along with being honored by a statue, these players numbers are retired (with the exception of Cobb, who played before numbers were given out to players). Along the Right Field Wall above the stands are names of all of the Tigers Hall of Famers (a much more lengthy list then the players in LF). While the Tigers would be wrong to add the names Whitaker and Trammell in Right given the standards set there, the Left Field Wall is of their own determining. As such, I think it is time we honor the great duo on Tigers’ history on that wall.
While one can argue that other names should also be included (look at the number of Tigers who are HOFers and then look at how many have statues/retired numbers) it is easy to see that the Tigers of the late 20th century need to be recognized for their contributions to history of the franchise. Tram and Lou are the perfect representatives of this age as they were consistently good/great and played a combined 37 years for teams that were usually pretty good (including the 1984 and 1987 Tigers). During their careers with the Tigers a few players may have had better individual season (Cecil Fielder, Willie Hernandez, Jack Morris, or Kirk Gibson) but Tram and Lou were always there and always performing (at a high level). Similar to how Miguel Cabrera may have been overlooked this year thanks to the great season of Justin Verlander, one could make the same case for Tram and Lou. Without Miguel, the Tigers cease to be a threat. Without #1 and #3 up the middle, the Tigers of our youth could have been very forgettable.
The Tigers need to help us always remember the great enjoyment this duo provided us as fans for almost 2 decades…what better way than to have them live on above the LF stands – 1and 3 turning yet another double play for the Detroit Tigers.