Henning: Trammell, Morris bring playing-days personalities to speeches
Cooperstown, N.Y. — During his 20-year run as Tigers shortstop, Alan Trammell was keen on playing smoothly and efficiently, minus flash or complications.
Jack Morris took a different approach. He spiced his pitching dynamics with emotions that sometimes generated as much heat as his fastball and as much frustration as his pet split-finger pitch.
Sunday at Cooperstown, on a summer afternoon suited to porch swings and to lemonade, not to mention sunscreen, each man turned his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech into a precise imitation of how he played big-league baseball in Detroit.
Their styles and profiles shined atop a dais where they joined with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman in being handed Baseball Hall of Fame plaques forever housed in Cooperstown’s gallery of greats.
Their heritage as Detroit baseball giants was both visible and audible Sunday. A heavy Tigers fan turnout, impossible to quantify, was part of Sunday’s audience of 53,000, the second-biggest crowd in Hall of Fame induction history.
Thousands of chairs were arranged on acres of grass tucked against corn and alfalfa fields a couple of miles from the downtown village where for 79 years the Hall of Fame has become a destination for baseball’s pilgrims.
Trammell’s introductory video, a series of career highlights that preceded each player’s speech, was narrated in the form of interview thoughts from his two-decade infield partner, Lou Whitaker.
Trammell approached the podium to applause, an airhorn blaring, and to a chorus — “Let’s go Tigers, let’s go” — from Tigers fans who turned out Sunday.
“I hear ya,” Trammell began, never, for a moment showing nerves that so often accompany players on these induction days.
“Tiger fans, I know you’re out there,” he said as whoops pierced the 75-degree air. “Today is as much about you as it is for me. Today, all Tiger fans can celebrate.”
A man who knew how many with Detroit ties had caravanned to Cooperstown, added, in a bow to Morris, and to a Tigers Hall of Fame broadcaster:
“Like Ernie Harwell used to say when the Tigers turned a double play, you get ‘two for the price of one’ with Jack and I going into the Hall of Fame together.”
Trammell and Morris became 2018 winners after a Modern Era Committee, with past big-league stars as its core, determined last December two Tigers greats had been short-changed on the writers’ ballot.
Both men were supreme talents during a 1980s heyday that saw the Tigers win more games during the decade than any other big-league team. Trammell at shortstop, Morris as staff ace, became, if not team centerpieces, jewels within a team mosaic that in 1984 brought the Tigers a world championship.
Linked with Sweet Lou
Trammell was dressed Sunday in a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie, and wore reading glasses as he crisply sailed through a speech scarcely longer than 12 minutes.
His speech avoided any lengthy listing of men with whom he played. Possible slights to past teammates might have been the consequence and Trammell wasn’t taking any risks Sunday.
Whitaker, though, was an exception. A second baseman, who many expect will eventually get a Hall of Fame plaque, won Trammell’s Sunday tribute.
“My whole career, I have been linked with one person,” Trammell said. “For 19 years, Lou Whitaker and I formed the longest-running double-play combination in the history of baseball.
“I doubt that record will ever be broken.”
Ardor, too, flowed for a Hall of Fame manager, the late Sparky Anderson, who was with Trammell for 17 seasons in Detroit.
Anderson joined the Tigers two months into Trammell’s and Whitaker’s second full season with the Tigers. And it was Anderson whom Trammell treated Sunday to lavish praise.
“That move turned out to be a life-changer for me and for so many of my teammates,” Trammell said of Anderson’s hire, which came eight months after Anderson had been fired by the Reds, with whom he won a pair of world championship.
“We thought we were good ballplayers. But we found out we didn’t know squat. Sparky turned a team of young, talented players into good, fundamentally sound, players.”
Trammell toasted, also, another Tigers Hall of Fame maestro who was back at Cooperstown 38 years after he was enshrined.
“To Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline,” Trammell said, turning slightly toward the Tigers right-fielder who had 3,007 career hits, and who Sunday was one of 51 past Hall of Fame stars on hand, “thank you for being a role model that you are, for doing everything with class and dignity. I'm proud to have worn the Olde English D my entire playing career, just like you did.”
Trammell was Sunday’s third introduction, while Morris was fifth among the six inductees.
'Huge thank you to Detroit'
Morris’ speech was slightly longer than Trammell’s and began with a loud, elongated greeting:
“Helloooooooooo, Cooperstown!” Morris boomed.
He later explained the drawn-out opener was done with a purpose.
“It was to give me a breather,” said Morris, whose graying hair and goatee Sunday accented a dark suit, white shirt, and red-patterned tie, all flourished by a white pocket-square.
Morris is known for emotions that during his playing days leaned toward personal and competitive fury.
On an emotional spectrum that can have its extremes, there can be tender moments for Morris, such as last December, when he got word of his Hall of Fame ascent and approached tears.
Sunday, his voice quivered at times as he talked about his late parents, and about his brother, Tom, “one of the best human beings I’ve ever known,” and when he referenced Glen Tuckett, his baseball coach at Brigham Young.
But he held it together during a touching speech Morris believed more than others he would handle minus tears.
“I knew there would be parts to get through,” he said afterward, sitting next to Trammell as both ex-Tigers were debriefed.
“But I’m going to collect a lot of money,” he cracked, “from a lot of people who said I’d be a mess.”
As with Trammell, Morris was careful about tributes to his old Tigers teammates, perhaps fearing any slight to one would be a sin not easily forgiven.
His introduction featured video snippets and narration from a player with whom Morris sometimes sparred and so often starred: catcher Lance Parrish.
Morris saluted also Tigers fans as part of a “huge thank you to Detroit,” where he played for the first 12 of his 18 big-league seasons. He thanked present and past owners: Mike and Chris Ilitch, Tom Monaghan, John Fetzer.
He acknowledged also a Tigers manager of recent fame who was the Tigers’ Triple A skipper as Morris approached Detroit.
“Thank you, Jim Leyland, for your tough love that I needed during our time together,” Morris said before praising a pair of coaches from the ’84 Tigers title team: Dick Tracewski and Roger Craig.
He joined with Trammell in paying Anderson his heaviest tribute.
“I know Sparky Anderson is with us here today,” Morris said, speaking of his skipper, who died in 2010. “He taught me so many things, especially to respect this great game.”
And then, turning to a man and friend, hoping to unite again as pitcher and as shortstop, he talked of the person who a few minutes earlier had been handed his custom-worded, wood-and-bronze Cooperstown plaque.
“To go into the Hall of Fame with my friend and teammate, Alan Trammell, is a dream come true,” Morris said as the crowd’s Tigers fans applauded. “We signed together in 1976, spent 13 years together in Detroit, and now, 42 years later, Cooperstown.
That seemed to be the prevailing view within Detroit’s baseball world.
A single Hall of Fame inductee any year is rare for a baseball team and town, even one with the Tigers’ 100-year-plus heritage.
To have two is extraordinary.
And thus it seemed that Sunday’s “Let’s go Tigers” chants were appropriately plural.