With Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker formed a keystone combination of longevity unsurpassed in baseball history. Yet, Whitaker was in sharp contrast to Trammell. Whitaker’s seemingly effortless play left him open to criticism. Expectations for the Brooklyn, New York native were sparked when he was 1976 Most Valuable Player in the Florida State League as a third baseman. He moved to second at Montgomery (Southern League) in 1977 and began his partnership with Trammell. Less than a year senior to the shortstop, Whitaker had the flashier debut in 1978, winning Rookie of the Year honors. He did not immediately improve and was a disappointment until the middle of 1982. A strong finish gave him his best season to that point. Lou was Tiger of the Year in 1983, Detroit’s first lefthanded hitter with 200 hits since 1943, and a contender for the batting title. Like Trammell, Whitaker’s power improved with maturity. He set a record for Detroit second basemen with 21 home runs in 1985 and was part of the all-20-homer infield in 1986. In spring training of 1985, Sparky Anderson briefly moved him to third base in favor of rookie Chris Pittaro. The experiment came to a quick end. Whitaker was Anderson’s leadoff batter until being moved to the number-two slot in 1988. From his rookie season through 1988, he never played on a losing team. But his best season was wasted on the last-place 1989 team.
After a decade with the Tigers, Lou Whitaker is drawing comparisons to Detroit’s Hall of Fame second baseman, Charlie Gehringer. Whitaker is among Detroit’s all-time leaders in doubles, runs scored, and hits.