Alan Trammell won a plurality of the votes for sixth greatest Tiger ever in our last poll. He's also one of our more familiar ones for a majority of the BYB readership.
Alan Trammell was drafted in 1976 out of Kearney High School in San Diego, Calif. He arrived in Detroit the following September when he started in the ninth spot of game two of a doubleheader against Boston. Jason Grilli's father Steve started that game for the Tigers. Detroit fans needed something to cheer, with Mark "The Bird" Fidrych unable to repeat his 1976 rookie campaign and the team in its fourth straight season below .500. Lou Whitaker debuted in the same game, and apparently manager Ralph Houk thought more highly of Sweet Lou who batted in the second spot. While Whitaker went 3 for 5, Tram went 2 for 3 and was pulled for a pinch hitter.
Whitaker had played less than 300 games in the minors, and Trammell less than 200 games. Remember this the next time you hear that players are now being rushed to the major leagues. Nick Castellanos for comparison has over 400 games in the minors.
In the following year Whitaker was awarded the Rookie of the Year, and Trammell finished fourth in the voting. They were always linked until Whitaker retired in 1995, one year earlier than Trammell.
A first glance at Trammell's career statistics might indicate simply a good player who played a long time. His career line was a .285 batting average, .352 on-base percentage, and a .415 slugging percentage. He totaled 2365 hits and 185 home runs. Noting his 1231 runs scored and 1003 RBI's, by a shortstop, might elicit greater appreciation. Seeing his six All Star game selections and three top-ten finishes in voting for the Most Valuable Player may gain your attention. But there are no instances where Trammell led the league in anything, with the exception of sacrifice bunts. Trammell's greatness was the sum of the parts: he could get on base well above average, hit, hit for some power, and field well. Doing this as a shortstop and for two decades earns him a high ranking in Tigers history.
Trammell had the misfortune of peaking in the 1980's when not only Cal Ripken dominated the shortstop position but Robin Yount was also considered an all-time great. Trammell came along a few years after Yount. When he had his career year in 1987 with a .343 batting average and 28 home runs, leading the Tigers to the playoffs, George Bell was awarded the MVP with 134 RBI's. We have come a long way since then.
Trammell played in 20 seasons, all for one team. That places him in a pantheon with the likes of Al Kaline and Brooks Robinson. Derek Jeter is seeking to join the club in 2014, while Chipper Jones retired one year short of the goal.
Trammell shined in his only World Series. Kirk Gibson had the iconic home run off Goose Gossage to seal the series in game 5, but Trammell had two home runs in game 4 and led the team going 9 for 20. He was named the 1984 World Series MVP.
Trammell returned to Detroit to manage in 2003 through 2005. Like 30 years before the Tigers never were in contention, but at least Tram brought class and dignity to the team. He has served as Kirk Gibson's bench coach in Arizona for the past three years.
When I recall watching Tram play for all those years, I think of his closed batting stance that led to such consistent contact. He walked nearly as often as he struck out. When I recall listening to Tram play, because in those days much of our baseball experience was picturing what Ernie Harwell described, I think of reliability. If the ball was hit to shortstop and fielded by Tram, you knew it was going to be an out. He just did not throw wildly to first base. His fielding led to four Gold Gloves and while it was not flashy like Ozzie Smith, he had good range and a very accurate arm.
I respected Alan Trammell such that I named my first born Travis Alan. While Trammell was the better player than Fryman, we liked the way it sounded better than Alan Travis. We set him on the ground at the shortstop position at Tiger Stadium when he was six months old. Soon we discovered that our son was left handed.
Ed.: We borrowed these numbers -- Trammell's rankings in various stats among Hall of Fame shortstops -- from Patrick's ode to Sweet Lou Whitaker, the #7 player in our poll. --Rob
Note: Barry Larkin and Ryne Sandberg have since been inducted, so these rankings could be off by one slot. The rankings below are current.
Some day the Hall of Fame will correct its injustice and induct Alan Trammell. It will be late but well deserved.