Ian Kinsler to wear number 3
Nearly two decades after Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker made their place in history as one of baseball’s best double-play combinations, the Tigers will field a middle-infield tandem with the same jersey numbers. The team announced Monday on Twitter that their new second baseman, Ian Kinsler, will wear Trammell’s famous number 3.
The team expects Kinsler to man second base opposite shortstop Jose Iglesias, who donned Whitaker’s old number 1 when he became a Tiger at last summer’s Trade Deadline. The numbers should look familiar, albeit in reverse order, to Tigers fans who watched Trammell and Whitaker as teammates up the middle for nearly 20 years, from 1977 into the early ’90s. The two set an American League record for appearing in 1,918 games as teammates, and turned more double plays than any middle-infield tandem in Major League history.
Given their longevity and their success, the fact that any player can still wear those numbers on a Tigers uniform has always been a difficult topic in Detroit. The Tigers have only retired the jersey numbers of Hall of Famers with the exception of Willie Horton’s number 23. The Hall of Fame voting process has not been kind to Whitaker, who was knocked off the ballot after one year, or Trammell, who has not yet come close to the 75 percent selection needed for induction.
That said, no Tiger has worn number 47 since Jack Morris, a teammate of Trammell and Whitaker from 1977 to 1990. He has come closer to induction than any other 1984 Tiger, but still needs a boost this year in his 15th and final time on the ballot.
While Iglesias became the first player since Whitaker to wear number 1 in Detroit, Kinsler won’t be the first number 3 in Detroit since Trammell. Gary Sheffield donned the number during his Tiger tenure in 2007 and 2008.
Kinsler’s old number 5, which he wore for all eight of his seasons in Texas, is off limits in Detroit. That number was retired with Hank Greenberg, so Kinsler needed a new number. He wore number 22 at the University of Missouri.