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If you’ve ever spent any time at the Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium, or the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, you have likely had an opportunity to walk through their incredible Hall of Fame museums. Each one is situated in its own building on site at the park, and is outfitted with great memorabilia from the team’s history, as well as recognizing the franchise’s best players.
The Detroit Tigers don’t ignore their history. The outfield walls at Comerica Park are emblazoned with the names of Hall of Fame Tigers, as well as those whose numbers have been retired by the team. The outfield concourse has a number of beautiful statues depicting great Tigers in action. But it’s not enough.
It was only in 2018 that Alan Trammell and Jack Morris had their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Trammell’s longtime double play partner Lou Whitaker remains overlooked even now. There have been calls by fans (us included) for the Tigers to retire Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey for years.
The team could do better than that, though. It’s high time the Tigers built their own Hall of Fame on site at Comerica Park. For a team with 118 years of history, four World Series wins, and some of the greatest players of all-time, it seems like a massive oversight that there isn’t already a shrine to their achievements that fans can visit. There are 27 Tigers in Cooperstown, from Ty Cobb to Jack Morris. Only eight of those were inducted by the BBWAA in the general vote, while the rest were either voted on by the Veterans or Old Timers committees.
That overlooks dozens of other Tigers heroes who may not have the numbers to make it into the Hall of Fame, but still deserve to be remembered by new generations of fans.
A thread on Twitter brought up an incredible list of suggestions, and below I give five picks that aren’t in Cooperstown, who should be recognized by the Tigers with a place in a local Hall of Fame.
Sweet Lou, a true Tigers great. I don’t think there are many who disagree that Whitaker should be in the regular Hall of Fame, and can’t imagine a single Tigers fan would pick anyone different to be the first inductee into a Tigers new Hall of Fame (along with retiring his number). Whitaker was a member of the 1984 World Series team, a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glove winner, and the 1978 Rookie of the Year. His lifetime batting line was .276/.363/.426 in 19 seasons with the Tigers. Honestly, why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?
Bill Freehan is one of the best Tigers catchers of all-time, full stop. He’s an 11-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the 1968 World Series team. In terms of JAWS, the metric which measures the seven best seasons of rWAR by position to establish players who should be in the Hall of Fame, Freehan ranks 16th. Of all time. Ten of the 15 men above him are in Cooperstown. Freehan has earned his place in a Comerica Park Hall of Fame.
There’s a bit of a trend of the next couple names, in that they were members of the 1968 World Series team, but truly a lot of these guys deserve to be acknowledged by the Tigers. A three-time All-Star, McAuliffe played for the Tigers for 14 seasons before ending his career with the Boston Red Sox. He ended his career just shy of 200 home runs, with 197, and had a final line of .247/.343/.403. Not Hall of Fame numbers, but definitely a player who should be in the Tigers Hall.
Denny McLain is a polarizing choice for some of his off field issues, including an involvement in organized crime and a prison stint, but for the Tigers, he was a two-time Cy Young winner, a three-time All-Star, an AL MVP, and World Series winner. As far as checking some impressive Hall of Fame boxes, McLain has the pedigree. He has a career ERA of 3.39 and in his 1968 season won a whopping 31 games. He might not be in Cooperstown, but he deserves to be in a Comerica Park Hall of Fame.
A shoe-in for one of the greatest Tigers names of all time, this one was suggested by Tigers History on Twitter, and had to be included for the 80-grade name alone. Poffenberger, who you’ve likely never heard of, played for the Tigers for two seasons from 1937-38 and had a career ERA of 4.75. So, not great, and not better than genuine suggestions like Chet Lemon or the others above, but now you know about Boots, and that makes me happy.
Beyond just being an opportunity to tip a cap to their history and to the incredible men who have played for the team in the past, opening a Hall of Fame at Comerica Park would provide a new feature to the park that would draw fans in, even when the team on the field isn’t at its most exciting. People come to the park for baseball, absolutely, but park amenities are a huge factor of what makes the experience memorable.
By leaning into their history and creating a new feature for fans, the Tigers could bring more people into the park, and also show their respects to the past.