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Whitaker named to Modern Era HOF ballot

@beckjason
November 4, 2019

DETROIT -- Nearly 20 years after Lou Whitaker was snubbed on the Hall of Fame ballot, the Tigers great has another chance to gain induction to Cooperstown. The former All-Star second baseman is one of 10 names on the Modern Era Committee ballot, which will be voted on next month.

DETROIT -- Nearly 20 years after Lou Whitaker was snubbed on the Hall of Fame ballot, the Tigers great has another chance to gain induction to Cooperstown. The former All-Star second baseman is one of 10 names on the Modern Era Committee ballot, which will be voted on next month.

The same 16-member committee voted Alan Trammell and Jack Morris into the Baseball Hall of Fame two years ago. Whitaker was not on that ballot, possibly out of consideration for the other Tigers who where on the ballot. Trammell and Morris have taken up Whitaker’s cause ever since.

“I’m proud that he’s starting to get some recognition a little bit more,” Trammell said during his ceremony at Comerica Park last year, “because the love that Lou has not received, it bothers me. And whatever you want to call it, I’m shocked, and hopefully maybe this will help get a little momentum. I meant what I said, that I hope he’s in the Hall of Fame soon and that he also has his number retired here at Comerica Park.”

10 named to Modern Baseball Era ballot for HOF

This year’s voters, usually including Hall of Fame players from that era who can judge their peers, will be announced in the coming weeks before meeting at next month’s Winter Meetings to discuss the finalists. A candidate must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast for induction.

“Alongside fans from across the globe, all of us with the Detroit Tigers are thrilled to learn that Lou Whitaker has been named to the Modern Era Committee ballot that will be voted on this December,” the Tigers said in a statement. “’Sweet Lou’ was an integral part of our 1984 World Series Championship team and is a key piece of the storied tradition of baseball in the Motor City. When the voting results are announced next month, we’re confident that all of us will be celebrating this Tigers legend’s election to Cooperstown.”

Though the committee has plenty of names to consider, few arguably suffered a bigger snub than Whitaker. While Trammell and Morris lasted 15 years on the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame ballot, Whitaker lasted only one. In 2001, he was selected on just 15 of 515 total ballots, or 2.9 percent, far short of the 5 percent needed to remain on future ballots.

It was a harsh judgment on a 19-year career that saw Whitaker earn five All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, rank among the best two-way second basemen of his time and pair with Trammell to form arguably the greatest double-play duo of the modern era.

“Am I supposed to be mad? Am I supposed to be envious?” Whitaker asked last year. “We were a shortstop-second base combination. But that’s life sometimes. … Jack’s in. Tram’s in. I’ll wait my turn. …

“Patience, patience, patience. What can I say? The thing is to be realistic.”

Whitaker played in 2,390 Major League games, all of them with the Tigers. He played 2,308 games at second base, the only defensive position in his career.

Whitaker’s 75.1 bWAR ranks 78th all time. He’s the only player on this year’s ballot in the top 100. Baseball historian/author Bill James rated him as the 13th-best second baseman of all time, and among the best players not in the Hall of Fame.

Many in Detroit hope that last part gets corrected shortly. If Whitaker is elected, his No. 1 would presumably be retired on the brick wall behind Comerica Park’s outfield at some point next August or September, following his induction. And the discussion about a possible Trammell-Whitaker double play statue would be rekindled.

“If there was a statue, don’t you think it would be appropriate that it would be both of us? I mean, I do,” Trammell said last year.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.