Two Things You May Not Have Known About ‘Sweet Lou’ Whitaker
'Sweet Lou' Whitaker will be honored at Comerica Park Saturday, in a ceremony that is long overdue. But here's a couple of things that might surprise you about the Tiger great.
Whitaker Put Up Hall Of Fame Numbers In His 18 Seasons In Detroit
This Saturday, August 6, at Comerica Park, it will be 'Sweet Lou' Whitaker Day, and the Martinsville, West Virginia native will be honored and his famed number one jersey retired, and placed in the ring of honor alongside Tiger legends like Al Kaline and Willie Horton.
Whitaker Was A Quiet Kid Who Was Reliable And Great
Raised in a strict Jehovah's Witness family, Whitaker was shy and quiet, which in our "all about me" society, sometimes comes off as stand off-ish, and so he didn't win over many fans in the sports media.
Detroit sportswriter Terry Foster described him as "lacking a personality", who could come off as gruff.
To say he wasn't an easy interview and didn't enjoy dealing with reporters is an understatement. But Lou was a fantastic baseball player and you can't even argue that he wasn't one of the best at his position.
Look at his numbers compared to other Hall of Famers at his position:
Two Things You May Not Have Known About Sweet Lou
The diminutive Whitaker is not known for being a power hitter, but Lou is one of only 19 players to blast a ball over the roof and out of the old Tiger Stadium.
Here's the odd thing about Lou's feat: you can't find the date it happened. I've searched online for it, and unless you know something more than I do about search terms, neither will you. Weird.
The other thing that may surprise you, is that because of his religious beliefs, Lou did not stand for the playing of the National Anthem. Ever. Being Sweet Lou, he rarely talked about it, but his teammate and fellow Jehovah's Witness Chet Lemon did, telling the Detroit Free Press in 1987:
"I believe in God's kingdom. I acknowledge God's kingdom over earth. I give my allegiance to him and not to the flag. I am grateful to be in the United States, grateful to be able to live in the U.S. and have the opportunity to have my beliefs and go door to door to share them...the national anthem is a ritual. You have to think about what's being said -- rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in air? We do not believe in nor do we salute war. And for all practical purposes, I'm not the only player to not to salute the flags. Others all over America don't do it for different reasons, and a lot of them don't understand why and don't understand why we don't, either."
Isn't It Refreshing To See A Pro Athlete Who Isn't Full Of Himself?
So Whitaker was quiet and humble. What is wrong with that? I find it to be refreshing. I always thought that both Whitaker, and his double play mate, Alan Trammell did all of their talking on the field.
And what a conversation it was. A World's Championship in 1984, five All-Star games, and here's a little know Sweet Lou fact: he was one of only 19 players to hit a ball over the roof and out of the old Tiger Stadium.
One of my favorite Sweet Lou memories was when he left his team jersey in his rental car, and had to buy a jersey in the gift shop to wear in the 1985 All Star Game. He then used a sharpie marker to write his number on the back.