Whitaker’s nice gesture remains one of Trammell’s prized possessions

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were inseparable on the diamond for 19 years. In 1987, Whitaker gave Trammell a special gift.

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were inseparable on the diamond for 19 years. In 1987, Whitaker gave Trammell a special gift.

Alan Trammell has a lot of baseball stuff.

When you spend 20 years in the major leagues as a player, several more in the minor leagues, and work at the big league level as a coach and manager, you accumulate a lot of memories. And a lot of stuff. Trammell has a few jerseys, his first big league helmet, and he has the baseball from one of his two home runs in Game Four of the 1984 World Series. He has the glove he wore for the first portion of his career (it was a black Mizuno model). There are four Gold Glove Awards and three Silver Sluggers from Louisville (they’re really silver). Tram has a scorecard from his final game and he has the bat he used in the ’84 Series when he was named Most Valuable Player.

But the most cherished item Trammell has didn’t come from the league, or a bat or glove manufacturer, nor was it a game-used item of his. No, the most prized item he has from his baseball career was an unexpected gift from a teammate who he knew just as well as a brother on the diamond.

Sweet Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell will forever be linked to each other. They debuted together, played in the middle of the diamond next to each other, hit back-to-back in the lineup, and they played more games as teammates than any other duo in the history of baseball. It was after one of those games in 1987 that Whitaker made a generous gesture to his friend.

It was October 4, 1987, and the Tigers were hosting the Blue Jays in the final game of the season at Tiger Stadium with the division title on the line. The Tigers were one game ahead of the reeling Jays, who had blown a 5-game lead in less than two weeks. Behind the looping breaking balls of lefty Frank Tanana the Tigers beat the Jays 1-0 to clinch the division. As the Tigers hopped all over each other in the infield grass, Whitaker detoured back toward the middle of the diamond and casually scooped up second base, removing it from the dirt and hustling it into the clubhouse. He found a sharpie and scratched a message on the slightly dirty bag:

“To Alan Trammell, 1987 Most Valuable Player, from your friend Lou Whitaker”

Sweet Lou then delivered it to Trammell in his locker before the press was allowed in the room. Before he joined his teammates in the ritual dousing of champagne and raucous celebratory jubilee, Tram tucked the bag into the rear of his locker for safe keeping. He’s had it ever since.

Trammell didn’t get any hits in that final game, he was 0-for-1 with two walks. But he’d been a man on fire for five weeks, hitting close to .400 in September/October as he led Detroit past the Jays. For the season, Trammell hit .343 with 28 homers and 114 RBI while assuming the  cleanup role in Sparky Anderson’s lineup. He did it all while playing his usual stellar defense at short and hitting in the clutch too. That summer Trammell was the best player in baseball, bar none. And no one got a closer look at it than Whitaker.

Trammell didn’t win the Most Valuable Player Award in ’87 (that honor went to George Bell in one of the goofiest choices in the history of this sport), but it didn’t really matter. He had his “MVP Award” from his double play partner, and it meant a lot to Trammell. It still does.

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.