The time has come for the Detroit Tigers to honor their history with a Hall of Fame

Though the baseball writers have snubbed them for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there's no question that Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker belong in a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame.

Though the baseball writers have snubbed them for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there’s no question that Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker belong in a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame.

Most professional sports teams have an understandably narrow focus — the here and now. They want to win now and they want fans to come out to see their games and buy stuff.

I get it. But most teams also ignore their history and that’s a mistake. Players come and go, and so do front office personnel, team owners, managers, and even ballparks. But fans can follow their favorite teams from age 5 to 95 and beyond. And as they do, fans form a connection to the players, teams, and moments that thrill them. That’s one of the reasons teams should embrace their history (there are others, but I don’t have space or time to write 5,000 words here).

The Detroit Tigers could do a better job of embracing and honoring their history.

Currently the Tigers have retired a few uniform numbers and placed them on display in deep right-center field at Comerica Park. Basically their team policy is to retire only Hall of Fame players numbers (though Willie Horton’s #23 is a notable exception). The team has also erected statues for a few of their legendary ballplayers: Horton (the only non Hall of Famer immortalized), Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, and Al Kaline. “Hall of Fame” broadcaster Ernie Harwell also has a statue at the park. These are nice touches and are popular with fans. But more can (and should) be done.

The Detroit Tigers should build a Hall of Fame. This would be a tremendously popular attraction that would not only honor the team’s history and players, but most importantly, it would build engagement with their fan base, many of whom are either old enough to remember the 1984 and 1968 World Championship teams, or young enough to need a history lesson.

There’s precedent for this. The Cincinnati Reds have a Hall of Fame adjacent to their ballpark and it’s one of the most popular attractions for fans. The Reds have done an incredible job gathering and acquiring artifacts to tell the story of their franchise, which dates back to the 19th century. They have an entire wall covered with 4,256 baseballs — one for each of Pete Rose’s record number of hits. In addition to photos and interactive exhibits, the Reds have a room where they honor inductees into their team Hall of Fame. Sparky Anderson, Rose, Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Tony Perez, and many others are honored there. Each year a new class is inducted. It’s a very tasteful and wonderfully entertaining venue and it’s right there as you enter the park’s main entrance. The Cardinals also have a franchise Hall of Fame, in fact the Redbirds honor their history more than any other team in the game, and it’s a nice touch considering how rabid their fan base is.

The Tigers can do something similar. An exhibit area wouldn’t be difficult to fill with items from team history: a jersey worn by Ty Cobb, a bat used by Hank Greenberg, sunglasses worn by Al Kaline, the first pro contract signed by Mark Fidrych, second base from the final game that Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker played together, and so on. In addition, photos and timelines can tell the story of the team, their great successes, their odd moments (when Eddie Gaedel the midget came to bat against Detroit or Disco Demolition Night in Chicago, etc.), and much more.

But one of the best reasons to have a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame is to honor the great Tigers players while they’re still here to honor. As I’ve written many, many times, the Tigers have more Hall of Fame worthy players who aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame than any other team. They also have several near-Hall of Famers who won’t ever make it to Cooperstown, but should be elected to a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame. In the first category are Jack Morris, Trammell, and Whitaker. In the second category are Detroit heroes like Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Stanley, Kirk Gibson, Cecil Fielder, and more. More recent players like Magglio Ordonez and Bobby Higginson may earn induction, or maybe Pudge? The debates could rage on, but every year the living inductees would be invited to the ballpark for a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame Day. Who wouldn’t want to see Chet Lemon accept his plaque (or bust or whatever they decide to honor inductees with)? Players like Lance Parrish and Willie Hernandez, and Dick McAuliffe and Lolich, they deserve a great honor for their careers as Tigers while we still have them to thank and cheer. It makes no sense to let them pass on while others debate whether their number should be retired or if they belong in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. We know they were integral to the history of our Tigers and they should be honored with the supreme team honor – a place in the Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame.

How does such an idea become reality? Who would have to fall in love with this idea for it to gain traction? I’m not sure if there’s anyone in the Detroit front office who wants to adopt this idea or champion it. But I do know we as fans can add our voices and try to get this to happen. If you like this idea, if you think a Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame at Comerica Park would be a great idea, add your comment to this article, or visit our Facebook page and Like us and comment on this topic. I’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

And let me know who you think would be in the Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame!