'He'll never make it': Fans recall favorite memories of Alan Trammell

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Alan Trammell

Detroit – There have been better baseball players in this city than Alan Trammell, that's not up for debate.

But, for a variety of reasons – but most notably, his blue-collar, no-flash style of play while manning shortstop all those years at The Corner of Michigan and Trumbull – few have resonated with Tigers fans as much as No. 3.

As the Tigers prepare to retire Trammell's No. 3 for good during a pregame ceremony Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, The Detroit News asked readers for their favorite memories of the recently enshrined Baseball Hall-of-Famer.

Here's a sampling of the responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Darron Birchmeier:

I have many favorite Trammell stories, but the one that sticks out the most was his walk-off grand slam against the New York Yankees in 1988 (June 21). My family and I were at the game and watched as Jack Morris spotted the Yankees a (big) lead. (Editor's note: Morris left after 1.2 innings, the Tigers down 5-0. The Yankees eventually would lead 6-1.) The score held like that until the bottom of the ninth inning. By that point, we had walked down from the upper deck and sat 15 rows behind the Yankees dugout.

The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and then had a lineout and strikeout. Then the Yankees pitchers couldn't find the strike zone and walked in two runs. I remember my dad saying prior to the walks, "If we can just get to Trammell, maybe we have a chance."

Billy Martin was the Yankees manager and I remember Tigers fans giving him grief as he went out to the mound after the walks.

Trammell came up and worked a full count, then cracked the grand slam into the left-field seats. We went crazy. My mom screamed so much she lost her voice for two or three days afterward. We didn't get home until 1 a.m. and at the age of 10, I was hooked on baseball and got the No. 3 jersey every chance I could when playing Little League.

Matt Wagenmaker:

I had to go to L.A. for work back in 2002 and I set my eyes on a Padres game. Alan Trammell was their first-base coach at the time and I wasn’t so much going to see the Dodgers or Padres, but to try and catch a second with Mr. Trammell. 

As our group readied to leave, we discovered the rental car had a flat tire. Guys were starting to discuss other plans. I got out the jack and went to work.

We had seats near the right-field foul pole and as soon as the game ended, I started hopping sections to work toward the visitors dugout by first base. I was wearing my Lou Whitaker jersey and stood in line with where the team was walking into the dugout. 

As Trammell approached, I waved my hands at him. He stopped and said, “I see you. Don’t see many of those jerseys out here.”

I told him we sure missed him in Detroit and would he sign my baseball. He said, "Of course," and I rolled it to him and he signed it.

I was 12 in 1984, and getting to meet Trammell and have him take a couple moments with me then is something I still remember.

So happy that he’s finally made it into the Hall of Fame.

Jack Morris and Alan Trammell pose with their Hall of Fame plaques on July 29.

Chris Gilbert:

I grew up in the small town of Marshall next to Battle Creek. I’m 39 now, but when I was about 9 (late '80s), the Tigers were on their caravan PR trip. They came to the restaurant Marshall is somewhat known for called Schuler’s. It wasn’t for public consumption and wasn’t supposed to be known but somehow my dad caught wind that they would be there.

The restaurant has a casual pub and then the formal restaurant, so Dad took me down to the pub for dinner that night. He asked our server very politely and innocently if it was true that they were there, and she confirmed that they were in a private room in the rear of the restaurant.

My dad said he didn’t want to cause a scene but did she think if I just went in there by myself with a ball and a pen it would be a problem. She smiled and said go for it. So my little 9-year-old self walks through the door and there’s the whole team. The first table I got to had Sparky (Anderson) and Jim Campbell among other coaches and front-office people. I got Sparky and Campbell to sign and they couldn’t have been nicer; everybody tousled my hair LOL.

In a polite way of getting rid of me, Sparky said, "I think you want to go to that table back there," and pointed to one in the corner. Trammell, Matt Nokes, I think Mike Henneman was there. They were all extremely gracious and everyone signed my ball and shook my hand and I went back to my dad feeling like I was the king of the world. Definitely never forget that.

Jeremy Bloch:

My nephew is 10 and for Christmas he begged to go to Tigers spring training this year. My parents (his grandparents) figured it all out and he got to go with Mom and Grandma.

So they see the game and after go stand by the fence with all of the 45-year-old autograph hounds to try to get just a glimpse of one of the players. And as they all leave one after another, Tram drives over to the group, gets out and walks right up to my nephew. Ignores literally every adult there and engages directly with him. Now my nephew is the proud owner of an Alan Trammell HOF autographed ball that he has on his night stand.

And for his birthday that falls on Sunday, August 26, what's the one thing you think he begged for? "Of course we'll take you to see Tram's number retirement. You're the only 10-year-old old whose Tiger retired 20 years before you were born!"

Steve VanDusen:

Opening Day 2003, I was 14. Tram's first game as manager. Got a baseball in batting practice and Tram came over to talk to some of us fans along the third-base line pregame. He signed my ball on the sweet spot, then Steve Sparks came over.

Someone in the crowd behind me asked Steve Sparks how he held his knuckleball as he was signing my baseball, and he showed us the grip he used. It was awesome, but I cringed as his fingers gripped the freshly-signed Tram signature.

Luckily, it didn't get smudged and I have an awesome memory and a great signed baseball.

Lori Saucier:

My first Tigers game was in Milwaukee. I was about 13 and had a crush on Tram. After the game, we went to their bus for autographs. I met him and asked for a kiss. I felt an arm around me and a voice said, "He's a married man," then laughter. I turned and it was Sparky! Tram blushed.

Jeffrey Robb:

June 21, 1988. I was 9 years old and bought an Alan Trammell miniature bat (still have it). I pleaded with my dad to stay through the whole game. Trailing 6-1 in the ninth, Trammell hits a grand slam to win it. Big reason I love baseball and am trying to instill that it my son.

Mark Corey:

My father took me to my first Tigers game when I was in high school. Trammell had just been called up and was standing in the on-deck circle. I leaned over to my dad and said, "He’ll never make it, he’s too scrawny." We laughed over that for years.