Trammell still unsettled by finally getting Hall call
Orlando, Fla. — Al Kaline told the story Sunday afternoon, hours before the news was released that former Tigers Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were selected for induction in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Kaline doesn’t ask for autographs. He gives them out constantly, almost non-stop when he’s in public. But he rarely, if ever, asks for one of somebody else. On Nov. 30, after the 25th anniversary dinner for Angel’s Place in Detroit, he presented Trammell with a ball and a Sharpie pen.
“Sign it, Alan Trammell, Hall of Fame,” Kaline asked.
“I’m not in the Hall of Fame,” he said.
Kaline said, “You’re gonna be.”
So, the first-ever Hall of Fame autograph Trammell signed was for Al Kaline. Not too shabby.
“The Hall of Fame, that’s got a great ring to it,” Trammell said on Monday morning as he and Morris were formally introduced by the Hall of Fame Board of Directors. “But when I hear, ‘Alan Trammell, Hall of Fame,’ it hasn’t resonated yet, and I’m just speaking from the heart.”
Honored, humbled, and in awe, that’s how Trammell was still feeling, even after having a full night to digest the news.
“I still again have a hard time saying that, ‘Hall of Fame, Alan Trammell,’ but I guess I’d better get used to it,” he said. “But to be part of a dream team, you can’t envision that. Young boy, all I wanted to do was become a Major League Baseball player. And now to become a Hall of Famer, it’s really indescribable.”
If Trammell was still a bit shell-shocked by the news, Morris was overcome with emotion. One of the fiercest and feared competitors of his generation, his eyes welled with tears and his voice cracked and broke throughout the press conference.
“Jack had me choking up,” said Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who was on the 16-member Modern Era Committee that selected both Trammell and Morris. “Heck, I didn’t know that guy existed. I don’t know Jack very much and I didn’t know him personally, but I know the guy I faced all those years and that wasn’t the guy I remember.
“That wasn’t the guy I remember on the mound snorting and sweating — that guy was out for blood trying to get you out. He has a soft side?”
Morris, like Trammell, had all but resigned himself to never getting the call to the Hall of Fame. After falling just short of the 75 percent needed to gain entry for 15 years, he’d gone through all the various stages of grief — disbelief, anger, bitterness and finally acceptance.
“After failing on the writers’ ballot, reality sinks in,” he said. “For me, it was a wonderful learning time because I had to remind myself of how much I am grateful for without the Hall of Fame. And then you get this wonderful news from your peers, and it happens, and Tram and I are both having a tough time grasping that right now.
“For me, this is more for the people that were in my corner than it is for me, myself, right now. I think if I made it on the first ballot, I wouldn’t have that same feeling. So I’m grateful for the time because it has taught me a lot.”
Trammell, who remains in the Tigers organization as a trusted and leaned-on special assistant to general manager Al Avila, had a very Tram-like story to tell of how he got the word of his selection.
He was on a flight to Orlando from San Diego. While others on his flight — Brad Ausmus, Bud Black, Trevor Hoffman, Bruce Bochy and others — were seated in first class or up front, Trammell was contentedly seated in the back of the plane.
“As long as I get an aisle seat, I’m fine,” he said.
He knew the call, if it came, would come between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. With delays, the plane didn’t land until around 5:50. So there he was, in the back of the plane, surrounded by rambunctious kids anxious to get to Disney World, when he got the call that he was at last going into the Hall of Fame.
“There were numerous kids and I wanted to be emotional and jump and down and do something, but I think it was a little bit out of place to do that,” he said. “So I had to kind of keep it in check a little bit. Say, really? Unbelievable
“And then it took a while to get off the plane.”
Still, he couldn’t say anything about it until the announcement was made on MLB Network at 6:15 p.m. So he had to stall.
“I purposely waited, being that I was kind of towards the back of the plane,” Trammell said. “So I waited, and I kind of stalled for a few minutes, going to the restroom, getting down to baggage claim. Our bags had not come out.
“And I saw this group (Ausmus and company), and it was right at 6:15. And as I walked up, they were all looking, waiting for me. I gave them the thumbs up. Then we took a little team picture kind of there. That’s how it happened for me.”
Both Morris and Trammell choked up some when the topic turned to their manager, Sparky Anderson.
“He was my No. 1 mentor,” Trammell said. “Hall of Fame managers and any of the real good ones — they had the ability to push the right buttons. And it was tough love. It was an era, almost an extension of your parents — the discipline and structure that I believe in very strongly. And that’s what he did.
“As young athletes, we thought we were good, and we thought we knew what we were doing. And little did we know, we didn’t know squat. We really didn’t.”
Trammell talked about how he was in awe of Anderson, at first. Coming over after managing the Big Red Machine teams in Cincinnati, he seemed larger than life to Trammell.
“I found out a lot more about him and played for him for 17 years,” Trammell said. “So we had a very special relationship. But it was tough early on, but he did it for a reason, and I am very thankful and appreciative that our lives crossed because without him, it wouldn’t have been the same.
“I know he’s looking. I know he’s looking down on us smiling. But he was a good man, a very good man. And, again, I’m very thankful that I played for him for that many years.”
Being inducted into the Hall of Fame with his teammate, Trammell said, was beyond special. But in his dreams, it wasn’t Morris who he went in with. He said often the true story-book ending would be to go into the Hall of Fame with double-play partner Lou Whitaker.
“People I’m sure have heard my story many times but I have a dream, and I’m entitled to my opinion,” Trammell said. “My dream is as a double-play combination. We did it longer than any duo in the history of the game. We’re linked together, as we should be. He’s a friend of mine. He was an excellent player.
“I’m hoping at some point that my dream comes true. It didn’t happen that we would go in together this year. I’m going in with my other buddy Jack, and I’m grateful and honored, as we’ve said many times. But I’m hoping that someday there is some more talk and that it does happen for Lou. But that will never change our relationship. It will never change the fact that we’re the longest running double-play combination in the history of baseball. It’s got a good ring to it. Got a good ring to it.”