‘This is for you’: Trammell honors Tigers fans as No. 3 is retired

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Alan Trammell waves to the crowd while he speaks during a special pregame ceremony to retire the No. 3 of former Detroit Tigers shortstop on Sunday at Comerica Park.

Detroit — There were two phone calls, not far apart, back in early December.

The first was to inform Alan Trammell he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The other was from Christopher Ilitch, who, after offering a hearty congratulations, told Trammell the Tigers would be retiring his No. 3.

In the nine months since, it's been one heck of a wild and, quite frankly, uncomfortable  ride for the Tigers' legendary shortstop, who's never been a big fan of talking about himself.

On Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, the storybook summer came to an emotional end, as Trammell stood stoically facing the left-center-field brick wall, where his No. 3 in white, outlined in blue, took its rightful place among the franchise's legends. He uttered, "Wow," several times, and shook his head, as if he wasn't worthy, when everyone else in the ballpark begged to differ. This all came two weeks after the Tigers retired his 1980s teammate Jack Morris' No. 47, and a month after Trammell and Morris were enshrined in Cooperstown.

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

More: Humble Alan Trammell thanks fans, honors Lou Whitaker, Sparky Anderson in Hall speech

So, what's next on the docket?

Turns out, getting back home to California to, well, walk the dogs, pull some weeds, etc.  activities far more up Trammell's alley than public speaking or soaking up the spotlight.

"Little things like that. That's what I do. I enjoy those kinds of things," Trammell said following a classy ceremony before an appreciate and large crowd of Tigers fans  many of whom still were outside the main gate, in a line that wrapped around a parking lot and stretched to Woodward, shortly after noon.

"If you know me well enough, I'm uncomfortable in this. This is not what I live for, I really don't. I just like being one of the guys. That's what I did, that's really how I lived my life.

"So I will get back to some normalcy."

Normal. There might not be a better word to describe Trammell, who didn't make as many All-Star teams as Ozzie Smith, or win a Most Valuable Player award like Cal Ripken or Barry Larkin or Robin Yount.

Trammell just played the game for a long time — 20 years, 1977-96, all in one uniform  and played it darn well, even if, in typical humble Trammell fashion, he included in his speech the nearly 6,000 outs he made.

Only 17 other men have played their entire major-league careers of 20 years or more with a single team, including Al Kaline, George Brett and Derek Jeter.

"Tram deserves every bit of recognition that he's gotten," said Kirk Gibson, who called himself Trammell's "road wife," and vice versa, during their playing days. "Tram always did what was best for the team."

Specifically, Gibson pointed to 1987. Lance Parrish had left for free-agency, and the Tigers needed a cleanup hitter. Trammell was the pick, even though most prototypical No. 4 hitters had thighs that weighed more than Trammell.

But he did it, and did it in a big way, delivering his best season, individually  and one that should've ended with an MVP award that ended up going to George Bell. The theory goes, many writers sent in their ballots early, before the Tigers caught and passed the Blue Jays on the season's final weekend.

Manager Sparky Anderson was hurt by the vote, far more than Trammell though, in a rare moment of self-indulgence he finally acknowledged Sunday it would've been cool to have won, even if wife Barbara would've considered it "another dust collector."

"He was so reliable, strictly business," Gibson said. "Tram, you have taught us how to do it the right way.

"That's something that will never get old."

Trammell, 60, becomes the seventh former Tigers player to have his number retired — eight, if you include Ty Cobb, who played before players wore numbers. Trammell and Morris are the first players from the 1984 World Series-championship team to have their numbers retired; Anderson's No. 11 also is retired, and he's also in the Hall of Fame, albeit with a Cincinnati Reds cap.

Trammell made it clear that he hopes he's not the last from the 1984 team to be recognized. He continued his summer-long stumping for his long-time double-play partner, Lou Whitaker, to join him soon in Cooperstown, and then on that brick wall at Comerica Park. (Conveniently, there is space just to the right of Trammmell's No. 3, which was painted just to the right of Morris' No. 47, below the first line of legends.)

Trammell even suggested that if the Tigers decide to someday build a statue of him  as they have for other Hall-of-Famers who have had their number retired — it should be of him and Whitaker turning two.

Whitaker was among several former teammates in attendance, including Gibson, Morris, Parrish, Frank Tanana, Dan Petry, Dave Rozema, Tom Brookens and David Wells, as well as some players who played on teams Trammell managed, including Brandon Inge.

Kaline, Ilitch, Al Avila, Gibson, Whitaker and Morris joined Trammell on the dais.

A highlight video of Trammell's playing career was, fittingly, set to the Bob Seger classic, "Still the Same." Another video included congratulations from the likes of Smith, Ripken, Jim Leyland and Brett — the latter who was on the veterans committee that elected Trammell. He's made it clear he voted for Trammell, and would've voted for Whitaker if Whitaker had been on the ballot.

"I had the privilege to play with Tram side-by-side for 19 years," said Whitaker, who was showered with a long, drawn-out, "Looooooooouuuu" from the Tigers' fans. "It was an honor."

Whitaker continued his classy tour of festivities, during a summer that must've been bittersweet  with Trammell getting all the accolades, even though few baseball folks can think of Trammell without thinking of Whitaker. They were called up the same day, got their first hits off the same pitcher, and even got their final hits off the same pitcher — even though Whitaker retired a year earlier. They turned hundreds and hundreds of double plays together. Whitaker attended the Hall-of-Fame ceremony, Morris' number-retirement ceremony and Trammell's. He caught Trammell's ceremonial first pitch following Sunday's ceremony. When they embraced near home plate, "It Takes Two" blared throughout the ballpark.

As Trammell did during his Hall-of-Fame speech, he focused mostly on others, including Whitaker, Anderson — and, of course, Tigers fans. Where Tigers fans surely liked Morris, they hearted Trammell  a love affair that began in the late 1970s, exploded in the 1980s, continued even as he managed a miserable Tigers team in the mid-2000s (the "for worse" phase), and remains as strong as ever today.

As a player, Trammell never left, a point drive home by a framed picture the Tigers presented Trammell  which included 20 Topps baseball cards, one for each of his seasons in the major leagues.

And Detroiters love few traits more than loyalty. Think Kaline, Steve Yzerman, Barry Sanders, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, et al.

"It's as much for the fans," said Trammell, who’s in his fifth decade of working for the Tigers  a stint only interrupted by brief coaching stints elsewhere, before and after his three-year Tigers managerial tenure. "They've treated me like a Hall-of-Famer well before I was inducted.

"This is for you. This is for you, and I mean that."


Twitter @tonypaul1984