It’s time for the Detroit Tigers to “retire” their tradition of only retiring the numbers of players going to the Hall-of-Fame.
The majority of Pudge’s Hall-of-Fame career came elsewhere, and we all knew he’d go in as a member of the Texas Rangers, but his inclusion marks the first player to be inducted that wore the old English D since Al Kaline in 1980. An incredibly long and unfair drought.
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Kudos to Pudge, who spent just 4.5 of his 21 seasons in Detroit. The Tigers have an insane policy of only retiring numbers of Hall of Famers (Willie Horton being the lone exception). This leads one has to wonder if Rodriguez’s #7 will adorn the brick outfield wall of Comerica Park soon.
Perhaps it should. It’s hard to argue that he didn’t have an influence on turning the franchise from a laughingstock to perennial contender. Think about the disappointing off-season the Detroit Tigers have experienced, and remember how this was the norm in the pre-Pudge days.
Before the Tigers consider retiring Rodriguez’s number, they’d better start with Lou Whitaker‘s #1, Alan Trammell‘s #3, and Jack Morris‘ #47. You can also make a case for retiring Bill Freehan‘s number (which was already retired much later than it should have been following the death of Sparky Anderson) as well.
These are players that stack up as well, if not better, than current Hall-of-Fame members. Whitaker never got past the first ballot, and Trammell and Morris were strung along until they became ineligible.
Baseball fans in Detroit lament the unfairness of the voting, yet the most important “fans,” Tigers’ ownership, is silent. As rightfully angry as we are over these players’ exclusion in Cooperstown, we should be just as angry not seeing their numbers on the walls in the outfield.
Not only are Tram and Lou’s numbers not retired, they’re still in circulation on the backs of Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias respectively. In other words, if the franchise doesn’t feel Trammell, Whitaker, Morris, and Freehan are worthy, why would national writers?
Make no mistake, number retiring can become overdone. Just look to the Detroit Pistons for proof. This is a franchise that retires seemingly everyone’s number. Rumor has it the Pistons are even retiring the number of the dude Ron Artest mistakenly decked during the Malice At the Palace.
There’s room between the retired number policies of the Tigers and Pistons. The Tigers can make a neat ceremony of retiring #1 and #3 by incorporating Kinsler and Iglesias. This happened in 1995 for the other Ilitch-owned team. During that ceremony, Bob Errey took off his #12 jersey to reveal a #21 jersey when the Detroit Red Wings honored Sid Abel.
There’s renewed optimism for Tram and Lou to be chosen for the Hall-of-Fame soon. It could be via the veteran’s committee for induction in 2018. Whether this happens or not, it’s past time for the Detroit Tigers to honor their stars. Only then can we debate Pudge’s #7.