Detroit Tigers' Alan Trammell took unconventional route to Hall of Fame
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — When he was 11 years old, Alan Trammell would walk two miles through a canyon — past coyotes and dairy land — in order to sneak into San Diego Stadium and watch the Padres, one of Major League Baseball’s four new expansion teams.
It was 1969 and Trammell and his neighborhood pals didn’t mind the jaunt through the still wild and undeveloped of part of southern California. When they reached the stadium, there was even more difficult terrain to negotiate.
"For a few years, the general admission ticket was basically a raffle ticket,” Trammell said. “It didn’t have a date on it. So we would always pick up a newer stub and keep it. We would come in prior to the gates being open, so to speak. There might be a gate open and we’d just walk in or sneak under or however you’d get in.
“But once you got in and the game was getting closer and we ran into an usher or we were trying to sneak down to field level, we’d have to present some sort of a ticket. We’d have this little stub.”
Clever stuff, but hardly a SEAL Team Six covert op.
“It was pretty simple and attendance was small,” Trammell said. “They probably enjoyed us, to be honest with you. It was our way of getting involved and wanting to see Major League Baseball. I know my buddies had the dream, just like I did.”
Trammell and his buddies did this for years. Even when he was a kid it was clear: Trammell never minded taking the unconventional route to get where he needed to be.
Nearly a half-century later, and after 20 spectacularly consistent seasons serving as the Tigers’ shortstop, Trammell again took a circuitous path on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he and former Tigers pitcher Jack Morris will be inducted July 29 as part of a six-member class.
Trammell, 60, fell far from getting the required 75 percent of Hall of Fame votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America from 2002-2016. But in December he was elected by the Hall’s Modern Baseball Committee (1970-87), a 16-member group of anonymous Hall of Famers, executives and veteran media.
“Regardless of how you get in, you’re not going to complain, OK? I can assure you that,” Trammell said with a smirk while touring the Hall of Fame on Thursday. “But the fact that it was my peers, my contemporaries that basically, in my book, and is just kind of what I’m evaluating the way this vote came down, is that they looked at some of the intangibles.”
About those intangibles — well, it’s better to let Kirk Gibson explain it in his own way.
“I remember him telling me one time that I was wrong and I needed to apologize to somebody,” Gibson said in a phone interview. “It’s kind of interesting because I was pretty volatile and when people challenged me I usually tried to take it and resolve it in a different fashion. But I really respected him.”
If there’s anything that should be included on the inscription of Trammell’s Hall of Fame plaque, it should be: “Once survived telling Gibby he was wrong.”
That instance happened early in their careers and Trammell and Gibson soon became practically inseparable.
“My wife used to comically call him my road wife,” Gibson said, “because when we were on the road I spent more time with Alan Trammell talking about baseball in our developmental years than any one teammate, than all the other ones.
“So we were constantly together, constantly talking about baseball before everybody got there, after everybody left. To this day, it still goes the same way.”
One thing Trammell didn’t think about, much less talk about, was the Hall of Fame.
“I’m sure like 99.9 percent of the inductees will say, that wasn’t your goal when you were a young boy,” Trammell said. “You just wanted to, first of all, I wanted to play professional baseball. I wanted to make it to the major leagues. And then as you get established, you want to do well, you want to win a championship. And those things I was able to do.”
Trammell credited his consistency and dedication to the discipline and structure he received from his late parents, Forrest and Anne, and his late manager, Sparky Anderson. They laid the foundation and sent Trammell on his path. An unconventional path, but one that eventually led Trammell to where he was always supposed to end up.
“I can tell you Alan Trammell is a great addition to the Hall of Fame,” Gibson said. “The way he studies the game and knows the history of the game, what he’s given back to the game, there’s no question he’s where he belongs and well deserved. And as his road wife, I’m very proud of him.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. Download our Tigers Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!