Detroit — It’s been 12,111 days since thousands of delirious Detroit fans stormed the field at old Tiger Stadium, ripping up the grass and celebrating alongside their world champion heroes.
Tiger Stadium, as we knew it, is long gone now, soon to be replaced by a sparkling, new-age, youth-athletic facility. Some of those 1984 Tigers are gone, too.
But that team, oh that special team, has never been forgotten, locally much more than nationally.
On Sunday night, Tigers fans and members of that team, alike, finally got their chance to toast those “Bless You Boys” once again, with news that Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, decades removed from the last time they played in a major-league game, finally are Baseball Hall-of-Famers.
The 16-member Modern Era Hall of Fame committee made it official at the winter meetings in Disney, with Morris receiving 14 votes and Trammell 13.
Next July, they’ll become the first Tigers players since Hal Newhouser in 1992 to enter Cooperstown with a Tiger cap on the plaque.
“Oh, that is great news. You’re the first one to tell me,” Tom Brookens said, while out on a Sunday drive. “You made my day, I want to tell you. I couldn’t be happier.
“I’ll have to give them a call and give them a blast — ‘Oh, now they’re letting anybody in there.’ (Laughs.) I’ll have to call them and give them the works.
“I think the world of both of those guys.”
Several members of the Tigers front office issued statements of congratulations Sunday, including:
Al Avila, general manager: “I can’t think of any two players more deserving of this honor than Tram and Jack. These two Tigers greats played an integral role on the 1984 World Series championship team.”
Al Kaline, 1980 Hall-of-Famer and Tigers adviser: “Playing for the Tigers was truly a privilege and to go into the Hall of Fame as a Tiger is a milestone that I am thrilled to now share with both of them. I am honored that they will join those who wear the Olde English ‘D’ in Cooperstown.”
Willie Horton, Detroit native and Tigers adviser: “Having been a part of the Tigers and this city for many years, I have been able to witness the impact that Tram and Jack have had not only on the game of baseball but in the city of Detroit. It is a celebrated addition to our rich history to have them properly recognized for their contributions.”
Trammell, 59, grew up in Southern California, Morris, 62 in St. Paul — having arrived in Detroit via the same draft, Trammell a second-round pick and Morris a fifth-rounder in 1976.
Trammell never left as a player, spending his entire 20-year career with the Tigers. Morris spent most of his career with the Tigers, the legendary “winningest pitcher of the 1980s.” They were two of the stars of the 1984 World Series-champion Tigers, and while Morris went on to win two more titles, with the Twins and Blue Jays, Tigers fans claim him as their own.
“I got lucky whenever I came up,” said former Tigers closer Mike Henneman, a rookie in 1987, the other year in the 1980s the Tigers made the playoffs. “You walk in and see those two, you’re like, OK, — and Lou (Whitaker) — the foundation is there. Jack on days he pitched would say, ‘Henny, don’t even go to the bullpen today.’ I would go, ‘OK.’
“And Tram was my locker mate. He was a father figure. ... He came up to me in spring training (in 1987) and said, ‘Hey, Henny, how you doing? Good luck.’ And he almost was bending over to a certain degree, a respect type of deal. And I was thinking, maybe I should just kneel. Give me a break. I’m a stinking rookie, oh heavens.
“Two class acts, and this right now is just beautiful. It shoulda happened a long damn time ago.
“People that have never put on a pair of major-league spikes have no clue what these two have done for the game.”
Morris and Trammell both lasted the full 15 years on the baseball writers’ ballots, with Morris coming the closest in that process.
It turns out, getting in front of a committee of so many peers — there were six Hall-of-Famers who starred in the 1980s on the Modern Era committee — was just what they needed to finally get their day, or more appropriately their due, as former teammates insisted.
Morris never won a Cy Young, Trammell never won an MVP (though most would say he got jobbed in 1987), but their careers stack up to so many others in Cooperstown, and the committee saw as much Sunday.
“George Brett (on the committee), obviously he had to face Morris and saw Trammell, and we beat them (in the ALCS) in ‘84, played against them throughout the ‘80s when we were really good and the Royals were really good,” said Dan Petry, the Tigers’ 1B starter to Morris’ 1A in 1984. “I think it would be great if my peers actually thought I should be in the Hall of Fame, the people I faced, the people I played with and against. Man, that would mean a whole heck of a lot.”
Every former Tiger The News spoke to Sunday night was thrilled for Trammell and Morris, but also disappointed that Lou Whitaker, 60, Trammell’s longtime double-play partner, isn’t getting the same recognition. He lasted only one year on the writers’ ballot — he fell off because he didn’t even get the 5 percent necessary to get a second look — and then didn’t make it onto this year’s 10-person Modern Era ballot. “Total (bleep),” Henneman said. Given the outcry, locally and nationally, Whitaker likely will be on the ballot in two years, when the Modern Era committee reconvenes.
Until then, the former Tigers will celebrate the two who will be enshrined in July, joining their legendary manager, Sparky Anderson, as the lone members of the 1984 World Series team in Cooperstown.
“Jack was a bulldog. He battled all the time,” said Lance Parrish, his longtime catcher. “He didn’t want to come out of games, and I appreciated the fact that when he went out there, he viewed that game as his game. He didn’t want anybody else coming in. He was fun to catch. Now, every once in a while, he’d lose his mind and we had to reel him back in, but once we did and got him focused, he was good to go.
“And Tram was just, he was steady, consistent. I had the good fortune of watching him and Lou work together for a number of years.
“It’s certainly nice to finally have a couple Hall-of-Famers, where we can now say we’re a part of that. It’s very special.”
In Morris and Trammell, you had two different personalities — the gruff, mustachioed bulldog in Morris, and the genial, clean-shaven gentleman in Trammell. As the debate swirled and intensified around their Hall-of-Fame credentials over the years, Trammell had the support of the new-age sabermetric crowd, and Morris was a fan of the old guard.
But both were undisputed gamers. Both were Detroit.
And, now, both, at long last, are Hall-of-Famers.
“I just saw it on the news,” said John Grubb, one of several contributing utility players on that 1984 team.
“We’ve been saying for a long time, when’s that gonna happen? I don’t know anybody that was any better than Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, and as far as Jack, Jack Morris, I’d say, was the most-competitive pitcher. The guy I’d want on the mound.
“Probably like the rest of the people from Detroit, I kept thinking, when will they finally get in? I’m happy for the people in Detroit. I know they’re tickled for Alan and Jack.”