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Lou Whitaker: 1983

Sweet Lou Whitaker had a career year in 1983.
Sweet Lou Whitaker had a career year in 1983.

The Detroit Tigers drafted Lou Whitaker in 1975. He retired in 1995. In between, he formed one half of the longest running, and perhaps greatest, double play combination in baseball history. Along the way, the infielder won the Rookie of the Year, the 1984 World Series, and made five All Star appearances. Whitaker enjoyed perhaps his finest season in 1983 when he finally achieved stardom.

Lou Whitaker joined the Tigers with the 1977 September call ups. He batted .250 in just 11 games, but won the starting job by the 1978 campaign. Sweet Lou won the Rookie of the Year award at age 21. He batted .285 with a .361 OBP for the Tigers. Over the next four seasons, he hit .286, .233, .263, and .286. Whitaker began to put it all together by 1982 when he began to show power. Overall, he knocked 160 hits, hit 15 home runs, knocked in 65, and finished with a .775 OPS.

Whitaker’s improvement in 1982 carried over into 1983. The Tigers had a fun season winning over 90 games, but just missed the postseason. Their second baseman made his first of five consecutive All Star teams that year. He set career bests in games (161), at bats (643), hits (206), doubles (40), average (.320), and total bases (294). Whitaker added 94 runs, 6 triples, 12 home runs, 72 RBI, 17 steals, .380 OBP, .457 slugging, and .837 OPS. He finished among the league leaders in several categories.

Tiger manager Sparky Anderson helped develop Whitaker’s abilities to maximize potential. As a result, the second baseman became the first Tiger left handed batter with over 200 hits since the Great Depression. He teamed with Alan Trammell to become the first double play combination to each hit .300 since the forties. In the end, Whitaker raked in the awards, he won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and Tiger of the Year. On top of it all, Whitaker and Trammell made a cameo on Magnum P.I. with Tom Selleck.

Sweet Lou did not level off after 1983. He continued to play at a high level for the next decade. Eventually, he made five All Star Games, won four Silver Sluggers, and three Gold Gloves. The little second basemen developed into a power threat with 244 career home runs, including one over the roof of Tiger Stadium. He collected over 2,000 hits, set several team records, and played alongside Alan Trammell from 1977-1995 making them the longest running double play combination in history. Bill James ranked Whitaker one of the greatest second basemen in history. James analysis placed the Tiger at number thirteen all time at the position, but that did not impress Hall of Fame voters. Whitaker finished with just 15 votes in his first year of eligibility and he was dropped from the ballot.

Lou Whitaker had an amazing career with the Tigers. He was an elite player that belongs in the Hall of Fame. The second baseman had arguably his greatest season in 1983 when he hit .320 and finished third in the batting race. His achievements that season are more impressive when compared to others in Tiger history.