Trammell to Smoltz: Sparky taught me what I taught you

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Cooperstown, N.Y. — Alan Trammell was touched that John Smoltz included him in his Hall of Fame speech this weekend, but the Tigers legendary shortstop passed the praise on to the man who taught him right and wrong.

“Appreciate the kind words, but that’s how Sparky (Anderson) brought us up,” Trammell told The News early Monday morning, after coaching first base in the Tigers’ 11-1 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday night. “Treat people right and make the young players comfortable.

“That’s how we did it back in our time.”

Smoltz was an 18-year-old from Lansing when he was drafted in the 22nd round by his favorite team, the Tigers.

Instead of going off to rookie ball, though, the Tigers brass decided to let him join the Tigers for 35 days in August and September 1985, and observe big-league life before beginning his pro career the next year.

The first person who came up to him in the Tiger Stadium dugout was Trammell, Smoltz recounted during a heartfelt speech Sunday.

“A Hall of Famer in my mind, a guy I will never forget in making the impression in my pro career, came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Alan Trammell. Anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. This house is your house,’” Smoltz said. “I will never forget.

“I thank you, Alan Trammell, for teaching me what a professional baseball player is all about. It was as if he introduced and gave me a baton and said, ‘Now, pay this forward every chance you can because this game has a chance to impact a lot of people.’

“And I have done that to the best of my ability, thanks to Alam Trammell’s impact on my life, just that five- to 20-second time of his day he took to welcome a newcomer to the game.”

Smoltz, now 48 and working as an MLB Network analyst, went on to have a 22-year major-league career, almost all of it with the Braves, for whom he was a star starter, then a star closer, then a star starter again. He’s the only major-leaguer with more than 200 wins and 150 saves.

And through it all, he stayed grounded and kind, in part because of Trammell.

That kindness and generosity continued in his Hall of Fame speech, in which he thanked all the usual suspects — family, friends, coaches — but also gave a heartfelt thank you to such behind-the-scenes folks in baseball as the clubhouse kids.