Alex Grammas, longtime Tigers coach, Sparky's 'right-hand man,' dies at 93

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Sparky Anderson with Alex Grammas, left, during their Tigers days.

Alex Grammas, who spent 12 seasons as the Detroit Tigers' third-base coach and was widely considered one of the nice men in baseball, has died.

He died at his Birmingham, Alabama, home Friday, his former catcher in Cincinnati, Johnny Bench, said over the weekend. Grammas was 93.

Grammas was on Sparky Anderson's staff in Detroit frpm 1980 through 1991.

"He was Sparky's right-hand man," said Dan Petry, who pitched for the Tigers from 1979-87, and again from 1990-91. "The last time I saw him was at our 1984 30th anniversary. He was always in good health and took good care of himself. His nickname that Sparky and the coaches called him was, 'Greek.'"

Grammas was of Greece descent, and took his first trip there the year after he retired, in 1992. He spent three weeks there, and was awe-struck.

Petry said Grammas was proud that he once took his entire family, and paid the entire price, to Greece.

Grammas is the fourth longtime member of Sparky's staff in Detroit to have died, including Anderson (2010), bench coach Billy Consolo (2008) and hitting coach Gates Brown (2013), All were members of the 1984 World Series championship team.

Surviving members of that 1984 staff include pitching coach Roger Craig (89) and first-base coach Dick Tracewski (84).

Detroit was Grammas' longest stop in coaching circles. He previously was on Cincinnati's staff during Anderson's run there, part of the 1975 World Series championship team.

In Cincinnati, according to Bob Howsam's book "Making the Big Red Machine," Anderson said Grammas was good for seven wins a year. He was called Anderson's "alter ego."

He also was briefly a manager, finishing out Pittsburgh's 1969 season, then being hired by then-Milwaukee owner (and future MLB commissioner) Bud Selg to manage the Brewers, starting in 1976.

Things quickly went sour in Milwaukee, and he was fired after just two seasons.

He then briefly had a stop on Atlanta's staff, before re-joining Anderson with the Tigers in 1990.He also was a coach with St. Louis and the Chicago Cubs.

As a player, Grammas had a 10-year career as an infielder, batting .247 in stints with St. Louis (two stints), Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs.

Grammas was born in Birmingham, to Pete and Angeline Grammas, and grew up a star baseball player at Phillips High School before going on to serve in the U.S. Army, including during World War II. When he returned home, he attended Mississippi State and won two SEC baseball championships.

He then went on to play or coach in Major League Baseball in parts of five decades.

Grammas was preceded in death by wife Tula in 2018. They were married for nearly 70 years.

Grammas is survived by three daughters, Lynn, Mary and Alexis, and a son, Peter, as well as 11 grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Services were held in Alabama over the weekend.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984