The shortstop half of the longest-running double play tandem in baseball history, Alan Trammell played 20 seasons for the Detroit Tigers and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1984 World Series. He and Lou Whitaker debuted in the same game in 1977 and played 19 seasons together, setting a record for most games played by teammates and double plays turned.
Trammell was a skinny singles hitter in his first few years in the big leagues, but in the second half of the 1982 season he made an adjustment to his batting stance and approach at the plate that vaulted him into another level as a hitter. He started driving the ball more and by 1987 when the Tigers needed someone to replace Lance Parrish in the cleanup spot, Trammell was tapped for the job. He responded with his best season and one of the finest seasons of any shortstop in history. That year Trammell hit .434 with 205 hits, 34 doubles 28 homers, 105 RBI, 109 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases. In September and October, with his club in a fierce battle for the division title, Trammell hit .417 with seven homers and 20 RBI. Still, he finished second in MVP voting to Toronto’s George Bell in one of the worst decisions ever by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Trammell was a fundamentally sound player. He wasn’t spectacular at any one aspect of the game, but he was very good at almost everything. He used an over the top throwing motion that was accurate and compensated for an average throwing arm. He wasn’t blinding fast but he was an excellent base runner and a very successful base stealer. He wasn’t †large but he employed a quick bat to generate power, hitting 185 homers in his career. He batted over .300 seven times and he was tough to strike out. Because of his solid rather than spectacular skills, Trammell was often overlooked and underrated. As long time Detroit coach Dick Tracewski points out: “At no time would any baseball man have traded Trammell straight up for Ozzie Smith, no chance” but yet Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first season of eligibility while Trammell still waits outside the Hall. “The Wizard of Oz” made flashy plays and was the greatest defensive player at his position of all-time, but Trammell was the better offensive by a large margin.
After his playing career, Trammell stayed in the game, coaching and then accepting the job as manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2003. Strapped with a terrible team with a miserable farm system, Trammell guided the club to an embarrassing 119 losses in his first season. But he righted the ship a bit and had the team over 70 wins in his next two seasons. Still, the front office axed him after the 2005 campaign and replaced him with Jim Leyland. Somewhat of a scapegoat, Trammell had proved loyal and taken the helm of a bad team, helping them learn to be professionals. In 2006, the Tigers went to the World Series the season after Trammell was fired. But Trammell’s sharp mind and leadership skills were recognized and and he was hired by Lou Piniella to serve as bench coach with the Chicago Cubs, and later by his former teammate Kirk Gibson in the same capacity with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In his 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, Trammell climbed his way to more than 40% of the vote in his final try, but never sniffed election. Many baseball experts, especially the sabermetric community, have supported his Hall of Fame case.