GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Alan Trammell stood at the podium of the JW Marriott ballroom Tuesday and peered out at the crowd of more than 500 people, all eager to hear his memories of the Detroit Tigers.
While he made sure to hit on all the iconic memories of players, coaches and seasons, he also talked about the less flashy moments. In the Hall of Famer’s mind, failure had to come before he received any success.
Paying attention to the little things is sometimes easy to forget in today’s game, Trammell said.
“When I go around to our minor league affiliates, I try to remind the youngsters watch the video and all of that, but don’t forget to watch the game,” Trammell said. “You need to pay attention and use the combination of both to achieve your goals of becoming a major league ball player.
“I believe in that, and it’s how I found success on my way up.”
His success helped lead the Tigers to a World Series title in 1984. He and teammate and fellow special assistant to the Tigers Kirk Gibson talked about that championship Tuesday at the West Michigan Sports Commission’s annual luncheon.
Trammell said he didn’t want to go into much depth about the 1984 season because he didn’t want to take away from every other memory and knew he would get questions about it.
“We had to take our lumps in seasons going up to it, but it felt good to win it as a bunch of guys who grew up through the (Tigers) system,” Trammell said. “I was lucky to have been with the Tigers my entire career. Hopefully I did it correctly. I was taught well by my parents and coaches.”
In that 1984 postseason, Trammell hit .364 with a home run and three RBIs in the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals. In the World Series against the San Diego Padres, he only went up. Trammell averaged a .450 clip (9-for-20) at the plate, including a pair of two-run homers that totaled all of the scoring for the Tigers’ Game 4 victory. Detroit went on to win the series 4-1 and Trammell was named the most valuable player.
During the run and his career in Detroit from 1977-1996, Trammell credits a lot of help to Tigers’ second baseman Lou Whitaker.
“We spent 19 years together in the major leagues and one in the minor leagues together. It’s just another one of those great stories as you get older,” Trammell said. “We were just doing our job. You don’t really think about how we were the longest running double play combination in baseball. When you’re playing, you are just like, ‘Whatever, we just love to play.'”
Kirk Gibson also talked about his favorite memories as a Tiger, and of course his heroics in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series came up.
Goose Gossage of the Padres was one of the premier pitchers in baseball. Instead of going to an intentional walk with first base open, Gossage wanted to face Gibson, who he struck out on three pitches in their first matchup in 1979. Detroit was up 5-4 with one out in the eighth inning and runners on second and third base. The count was 1-0 and Gibson took his first swing of the at-bat. The ball landed in the right field upper deck of Tigers Stadium, essentially icing the game and a trip to the World Series for Detroit.
He said the seasons building up to that cherished moment put him in that position.
“In 1983, I had my worst season ever, hitting .227, and I needed to make some personal adjustments,” Gibson said. “We always expected to win, we never accepted the fact that we were losing. In 1984, we had that (35-5) start and (then-manager) Sparky (Anderson) instilled a fear in us that if we didn’t close it out, it wouldn’t be worth it.
“Until that last ball was caught, we didn’t celebrate.”
Both players also commented on the importance of teammate and West Michigan Whitecaps manager Lance Parrish’s role in the 1984 run Gibson used the same bat as Parrish’s throughout his career.
“The Louisville Slugger S216. It had a certain handle to protect your hand,” Gibson said. “Lance was a guy I looked up to as a brother and to this day is a great man, dad and friend.”
Parrish, Trammell and Gibson can now remember those times together as world champions and share them with Tigers fans. But Trammell and Gibson both want to be remembered for the work they put in before that magical 1984 campaign.