He Will Give Detroit a Little More Mileage


Embarrassing? Don’t even suggest it, says Alan Trammell, knowing people have and will.

He is 38 and back for his 20th season with the Detroit Tigers, and it shouldn’t be a concern to anyone, Trammell says, that he isn’t sure how often he will play or what position or that Lou Whitaker, his teammate the previous 19 years and double-play partner for most of them, retired after the 1995 season, reducing that long-running duet to a solo act.

It should be enough, Trammell says, that he still cares deeply about his profession, that the Tigers didn’t hesitate to take him back, and that he can contribute to a rebuilding process with his energy, experience and work ethic.

“I’m a baseball lifer,” the six time all-star shortstop said the other day at Tigertown. “The game is in my blood. I wasn’t ready to give it up.”


Many assumed he was because Whitaker was. There was a series of salutes to the venerable Tigers around the American League in September, but Trammell never really said he was leaving.

Now he has returned as a backup at shortstop and the other infield positions, although he has never played second or first base.

And he has heard some say they hope he doesn’t embarrass himself, that he might be tarnishing a distinguished career.

He even heard Sparky Anderson, his manager for 16 seasons before 1996, express some concern, although Trammell said Anderson didn’t echo such talk-show comments as, “The old man should make way for the kids.”

“They’re asking me to be a limited player, to help out in more ways than one, and I can handle that,” Trammell said. “Sparky was a father figure to me and I appreciate his concern, but I can’t worry about what people say. I’ve got to make myself happy, and I don’t think I’m going to embarrass the club or myself.”

At his home in Thousand Oaks, Anderson said, “Alan wanted the 20 years so badly that he couldn’t let go. I’m happy for him because he’s happy, but I’ve always felt that a great player should always be a great player, and my concern is they sometimes go beyond that. I’ve talked to Alan. He knows how I feel. I hope he’ll let it go after this year.”


A .287 career hitter, Trammell has appeared in more than 100 games only once since 1991. He broke an ankle in May of 1992, then came back to bat .329 in 112 games in 1993. But Chris Gomez of Long Beach State has basically been the Detroit shortstop since early in 1994.

The broken ankle also disrupted the partnership with Whitaker that began at the double-A level in 1977 and moved to Detroit a year later. They appeared in 1,918 games together, an American League record for teammates and 101 shy of the major league record held by Ron Santo and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs.

Whitaker filed for free agency over the winter, but a bad back and lack of defensive versatility limited his options. He and his wife are opening an apparel store in a Lakeland mall. Mark Lewis, the player to be named in the trade that sent pitcher David Wells to the Cincinnati Reds last year, will replace him at second base.

“Whenever I looked, Lou was always there, like a security blanket, but we all have to go on with our lives,” Trammell said. “Lou and I will always be linked together, even if I play more than this one year alone. That’s the way we’ll always be remembered and that’s special.

“In fact, I don’t think we realize yet what we did together. We can talk about it, but 19 years is a long time. I mean, fate played a part in that how many times do both positions open at the same time? But it was up to us to take it and run with it, which is what we did. We have to give ourselves some credit. If we hadn’t done the job, they’d have gotten somebody else.”

Trammell appeared in 74 games last season, batting .269, and, “with all that was going on with Lou and myself, I kind of felt like it would be my last year. With all the talk about the two of us retiring, I think I just kind of fell into it. Wherever I went after the season ended, everyone just assumed that I was retired, but I wanted to back away and think about it. I wanted to talk to my wife about it.”


Trammell said his wife didn’t want him to play again.

“But the more we talked, the more I went to the ballpark to work out, she knew I wasn’t through with it and accepted it,” he said.

Randy Smith, the new general manager, thought both Trammell and Whitaker had retired when he took over, but soon learned otherwise. Smith asked Trammell to meet with new Manager Buddy Bell.

“We couldn’t promise him even 50 at-bats and wanted to be sure he was comfortable with that,” Smith said. “That was really the only question. We loved the idea of his versatility off the bench, the example he would set to the young players by the way he busts his butt and the credibility he offered as something of a player coach.”

Trammell made $1.3 million last year. His 1996 salary is about $500,000 and he has been promised an unspecified position with the Tigers when he retires.

The market might have led to a broader role with another club, but Trammell said there were no guarantees as a free agent, he wasn’t interested in moving his family and felt strongly about starting and finishing his career as a Tiger.

“It was either here or retire,” he said. “I’m a West Coast guy who grew up in San Diego. I didn’t know much about the Tiger tradition, but I’ve come to grow on it. We’re happy in Detroit. I didn’t want to have to look on the back of my baseball card and see I bounced around.”


Only four players on major league rosters have more service time--Dennis Eckersley, Dennis Martinez, Eddie Murray and Paul Molitor--but all have played for more than one team. Only five other players with 10 or more years of service have played for only one team: Roger Clemens, Ozzie Guillen, Kirby Puckett, Tony Gwynn and Darren Daulton.

Trammell looks around a clubhouse missing familiar faces. There are Cecil Fielder and Travis Fryman, but besides Whitaker, Kirk Gibson and Anderson are gone.

Still, he said he likes the energy level that Bell and his staff have created. He said he won’t be bashful accepting Bell’s invitation to work with the young players, preaching forever, Trammell said, things he learned playing “for one of the best managers ever.”

He referred to Anderson, who said, “I told Pee Wee Reese recently that if you were to make a video of how a shortstop should field a ball and throw it, you would want it to be of Alan Trammell when he was at his best. He was technically flawless, and what a good person. He and Lance Parrish are as high up on the ladder as you can go.”

It is a new spring. Catcher Parrish is preparing for a reserve role with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a backup tutor for touted Jason Kendall.

Trammell is still with the Tigers, operating in a similar role, thinking about his former partner at second base.


He smiled and said, “When I called Lou to tell him I was thinking of playing again, he said, ‘Tram, if you play, I’ll come and watch.’ ”