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The book's closing on Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Tiger Stadium

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The corner of Michigan and Trumbull sits cold and empty on a January day. The field where baseball was played in Detroit before the American and National leagues even existed sits in limbo for the next few months before ground is broken on a new development and the grass once open to everyone is covered over in field turf by its new owner. The stars of your youth, Lou Whitaker has long fallen off the baseball writer's Hall of Fame ballots and Alan Trammell is just days away from joining him. You don't always get a storybook ending.

August 14, 1990. The Tigers are 54-63, nine games out of first place in the AL East. You've got tickets to see a game for the first time in your life, somewhat behind first base. The game's against the Brewers because earlier in the season they looked like a team Detroit might be able to beat. Whitaker bats leadoff for the Tigers and starts at second base. He goes 3-for-4 with a double and a walk. Trammell starts at shortstop, drives in a run and starts a double play, scooping the ball up and shuffling it off to Whitaker. The Tigers lost the day, lost the series, and went on to lose the rest of the decade. Tiger Stadium with grass so green the words of Ernie Harwell couldn't do it justice, and Tram and Lou patrolling the infield like they always should, shut its doors for the last time at the end of it.

Sometime along the way the ticket stub got lost, the stadium got torn down, the field became overwhelmed by weeds and Tram and Lou were forgotten by the protectors of history.

Maybe the Tigers' duo seemed unremarkable at the time. Maybe when you think about Trammell, you give too much credit to Whitaker, and when you think about Whitaker you give too much credit to Trammell. Maybe you don't realize the Tigers were one of the winningest teams of the '80s despite just one title and two playoff appearances to show for it. Maybe it's too easy to overlook Detroit. Maybe you only remember the end, when Tram and Lou stayed just a little too long, played in front of empty seats, and the Tigers existed only to pad out the schedule.

And then you look back. Statistically, Whitaker is one of the the best second basemen to ever play the game. If he seemed unremarkable that's only because you weren't paying that close of attention. And statistically, Trammell is one of the best shortstops to play the game, on par with a more modern superstar like Derek Jeter, who undoubtedly will make it into the Hall on his first ballot. Trammell had the misfortune of being a very good shortstop in an era of very good shortstops, and maybe he got a little overlooked. Maybe doing everything very good but nothing with great flash just isn't enough. Tram and Lou will have to wait to see if a veterans' committee rights the wrong handed down by the writers.

If you're around Detroit for a little while longer you can still go to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and swing the gate open on the fence, walk across the grass toward the center field flag pole that was in play and stand on the infield dirt. After a decade of fights and mismanagement, Tiger Stadium eventually came down, and a group of volunteers soon after arrived to tend your memories. Around that same time, Trammell's Hall of Fame case started breaking through, his support among voters nearly tripling in five years' time. In the end, though, both will come up a little short.


Sentimental value is a strange currency, its worth changing from hand to hand. That hat might not mean much until it's on just the right head. That field might just be grass and dirt formed into a familiar shape until you walk across it remembering somebody. And even those ballplayers you tried to be when you stood near second base on a neighborhood field are the same people -- regardless whether their busts are placed in a museum, their numbers are retired, or statues are commissioned for a new ballpark -- there's a part of you that wants this as much for you as it does for them, just to make tangible your memories.

The curtains are closing on the '80s era Tigers, like they closed on all those players and teams who came before them. History's moved on to new heroes, without Trammell, or Whitaker, or any of their 1984 teammates elected to the Hall of Fame, and the corner they once played at is becoming a "mixed residential/commercial development" while you make new memories in a new park a 15-minute walk away.

But hey, you didn't need that ticket stub, anyway.