Here’s a look at all nine numbers retired by the Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers have been notoriously stingy about retiring player numbers. In fact, nearly the only way to get a number retired was to have the player first enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This August, that will change. Although the Tigers first announced in 2019 they would finally retire Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey; COVID got in the way of holding a proper ceremony — until now.
Despite his Cooperstown-worthy credentials, Whitaker quickly fell off of the ballot and is yet to be selected for the honor by one of the committees meant to right past mistakes. While the Tigers waited to see if Whitaker would get in through the committees, fans clamored for him to be properly honored by the team.
During a ceremony on Aug. 6, Whitaker’s number will become the 10th retired by the Detroit Tigers. Eight of them were worn either by Tigers players or managers, with Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 retired by every team in MLB.
You might look at the list below and wonder about Ty Cobb? When he played, jerseys didn’t have numbers. For that reason he’s on the Tigers’ wall of honor with no number present.
Detroit Tigers retired numbers
- No. 2 Charlie Gehringer
- No. 3 Alan Trammell
- No. 5 Hank Greenberg
- No. 6 Al Kaline
- No. 11 George “Sparky” Anderson
- No. 16 Hal Newhouser
- No. 23 Willie Horton
- No. 47 Jack Morris
- No. 42 Jackie Robinson
Here’s a closer look at what each of those players meant to the team/league.
No. 2 Charlie Gehringer
Retired June 12, 1983
Charlie Gehringer spent his entire 19-year Detroit Tigers career, stemming from 1924 to 1942, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. He was known as being one of the best second basemen of his time, twice led the league in hits, once in stolen bases, and was honored as the MVP in 1937. That year he batted .371 to lead the league.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 with 85% approval. Gehringer’s Hall of Fame bio notes he was so consistent he even played in every inning of the first six All-Star Games.
He finished his career with a .320 average and .884 OPS.
No. 3 Alan Trammell
Retired Aug. 26, 2018
One of the most popular players on the ’80s-’90s teams, Trammell spent his entire 20-year career from 1977 to 1996 in a Detroit Tigers uniform and has since retirement assisted the organization in other ways. He was elected in the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee 2018.
And of course, as a shortstop Trammell is known for being one-half of the most success infield tandems of all-time alongside second baseman Lou Whitaker.
Trammell finished his career with six All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger awards and the 1984 World Series MVP award. He hit .285 with .767 OPS.
No. 5 Hank Greenberg
Retired June 12, 1983
“Hammerin’ Hank” spent his entire 13-year career with the Tigers, though it lasted from his one-game debut in 1930 through 1947. Some of those missing years? He spent 1942-44 with the U.S. military fighting in World War II with what later became the Air Force.
In Detroit, he led the league in home runs four times — once after his time in the military. He had 58 home runs in 1938 and an astounding 184 RBI in 1936. He earned MVP awards in 1935 and 1940 and played for two World Series-winning teams (1935, 1945).
Greenberg batted .313 with 1.017 OPS (159 OPS+) for his career.
He was elected into the Hall in 1956 with 85% approval.
No. 6 Al Kaline
Retired Aug 17, 1980
Among one of the top three position players in Tigers history — and known as Mr. Tiger — Kaline is one of the names and faces most closely associated with the team in history.
His accolades over a 22-year career, all spent in Detroit? Among them: 18 All-Star games (including 16 during a 13-year span from 1955-67), 10 Gold Gloves, and a batting title earned at just 20 years old when he hit .340. All the while he was one of the best defensive right fielders in the game.
Kaline spent his entire life around the organization, as both an announcer alongside George Kell and a front office assistant until his death.
He earned 88% approval for the 1980 Hall of Fame.
No. 11 George “Sparky” Anderson
Retired June 26, 2011
George “Sparky” Anderson spent 17 of his 26 years in the MLB as manager of the Detroit Tigers. During that time, the Tigers won the 1984 World Series after starting 35-5 and won the AL East in 1987 before losing in the ALCS. He earned AL Manager of the Year both times.
He also won two World Series titles as manager of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the 1970s.
Anderson earned the nickname “Captain Hook” because he never hesitated to pull a fading pitcher from the game, Cindy Thomson noted in SABR’s biography.
Anderson won 1,331 games (.516 winning percentage) in Detroit. He was selected for the Hall of Fame in 2000 by the Veterans Committee, but his jersey was only retired in 2011, several months after he passed away at age 76.
No. 16 Hal Newhouser
Retired June 27, 1997
Hal Newhouser spent the first 15 years of a 17-year career with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he earned the 1945 World Series MVP honors as well as completing pitching’s triple crown (leading in wins, ERA, strikeouts) that same year.
He won the MVP twice, led the league in ERA twice, led the league in strikeouts twice, and more.
He finished his career in Detroit with 207 wins and a 2.88 ERA to go with 1,796 strikeouts.
Newhouser was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1992.
No. 23 Willie Horton
Retired July 15, 2000
Detroit Northwestern’s own Willie Horton spent the first 15 years of his career in Detroit where he was the team’s first Black superstar. For that he, along with Whitaker, is the only player not to be elected to the Hall of Fame whose number the Tigers retired (or will retire in Whitaker’s case).
One of the strongest players in the game at the time, Horton batted .276 and hit 262 home runs while with the Tigers.
As noted by Dan Holmes in SABR, the 1968 World Series helped Horton cement his name in Detroit baseball history.
"In the World Series against the Cardinals however, it was Willie’s right arm that won him eternal fame with Detroit rooters. In the fifth inning of Game 5, with Detroit trailing 3–2 and St. Louis threatening to extend its lead, Lou Brock tried to score standing up on Julian Javier’s single to left field. Horton fielded the ball and fired a one-hopper to home plate. Freehan caught the ball and tagged Brock to swing the momentum in Detroit’s favor. The Tigers came back to win the game, 5–3, and captured the final two games to win the title."
No. 47 Jack Morris
Retired Aug. 12, 2018
Another of the players known for being a key member of the 1984 World Series team, Jack Morris spent the first 14 years of his career with the Detroit Tigers. He made four All-Star Game rosters and finished in the top three for AL Cy Young voting three times.
Like Trammell, he earned his Cooperstown enshrinement after being elected by the Veterans Committee in 2018.
In Detroit, he posted a 3.73 ERA alongside 1,980 strikeouts. He had 154 complete games (24 shutouts) in 408 starts for the Tigers.
No. 42 Jackie Robinson
Retired universally 1997
Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired across baseball in 1997. Robinson is known for changing the game by breaking the color barrier in baseball when he made his 1947 debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Before Robinson, Black players could only play in the Negro leagues rather than MLB.
Robinson was great on the field as well, hitting .313 with .887 OPS in his career. He earned the Rookie of the Year in 1947 and MVP two years later in 1949. He also earned seven All-Star appearances and won a World Series title in 1955.