Trammell’s Hall of Fame election accompanies his stature as one of baseball’s nicest guys

This jersey was worn by Alan Trammell during the 1983 season. (Photo credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

I have to be honest with you. I didn’t think Alan Trammell was going to get the necessary votes to enter the Hall of Fame through the Modern Baseball Era Committee. I just didn’t hear much buzz about Trammell heading into the vote and thought we might see a complete shutout across the board. Thankfully, as is often the case, I was wrong, as both Trammell and another Detroit Tigers legend, Jack Morris, received the necessary support for election to the Hall of Fame. As a result, we’re expecting Cooperstown, NY to become “Detroit East” on the weekend of July 27-30, when this year’s Induction Ceremony takes place.

That is not to say that Trammell is not deserving. He most certainly is. Prior to his election, Hall of Fame expert and Sports Illustrated writer Jay Jaffe championed Trammell as more than worthy of Cooperstown enshrinement. Here is what Jaffe wrote:

“On the traditional merits, Trammell looks like a solid Hall of Fame candidate. His 2,365 hits (2,232 as a shortstop, ninth since 1913) and 185 homers (177 as a shortstop, 12th in that span) may not be in the class of Ripken and Yount, but it’s a substantial résumé when accompanied by his All-Star appearances and Gold Gloves; it’s worth noting that Trammell spent far more time at the position (2,139 games, 11th all-time) than Yount (1,479). He scores 118 on Bill James’ Hall of Fame Monitor metric with 100 representing “a good possibility” and 130 a virtual cinch.

“In terms of advanced metrics, Trammell’s 132 batting runs—the offensive component of WAR—is 20th at the position, better than 10 of the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops.”

Even before his deserved election in December, Trammell’s presence was already felt in Cooperstown. He has visited our small village in upstate New York on several occasions, including twice as an active player participating in the annual Hall of Fame Game (1984 and 1995). As manager, he also took his team to Doubleday Field in 2005 for the Hall of Fame Game when Detroit squared off against the Red Sox. In more recent years, he has made two appearances in the Hall of Fame Classic, a game that features retired legends. In making those visits, Trammell has made quite an impression on Hall of Fame staff. He has been friendly, cordial, and down-to-earth, qualities that are not always evident with celebrities, baseball or otherwise. Trammell is clearly a likable guy, which explains why a number of staff members expressed their satisfaction when they heard that Trammell had received the votes needed for election.

Trammell’s impact on Cooperstown has also been felt in another way. Since 1987, the Hall of Fame collection has included one of Trammell’s game-worn jerseys. More specifically, it’s a Tigers home jersey from the 1983 season. Made of white polyester and in excellent condition, it’s a size 40 (I thought it would be smaller) and features seven buttons running down the front. It has all the standard features of the Tigers’ iconic uniform, including the Old English “D” and the dark blue piping.

Also on the front and near the bottom of the jersey, we notice three different labels that have been sewn into the jersey. One label says “Wilson/40” to indicate the brand and the size, while also including washing instructions. There is a second label, which has the No. 83, a reference to the season that the jersey was used. The third label has the No. 3, which indicates Trammell’s uniform number.

Right next to the label are some words written in black marker. They say “Jim Schmakel/Hall of Fame/ 10/26/87.” Schmakel is the name of the Tigers’ longtime clubhouse manager who has been on the job for 40 years. Schmakel himself did not make the donation; that was made by Dan Ewald, the Tigers’ former public relations director, back in 1987.

On the surface, the 1983 season might not stand out immediately for Trammell or the Tigers, but it did represent one of Trammell’s best years. He compiled an OPS of .856, the third highest figure of his career, ranking behind only his near MVP performance of 1987 and his surprising comeback season of 1993. Trammell batted .319, hit 14 home runs, stole a career-high 30 bases, led the American League in sacrifice hits (with 15), and also won the Gold Glove Award at shortstop against stiff competition. Additionally, Trammell finished 15th in the league’s MVP race; he likely would have finished higher if the Tigers had won the American League East. But at 92 wins and 70 losses, the Tigers placed second, six games back of the league champion Baltimore Orioles.

Thirty five years have passed since that season, but it’s likely that the jersey would still fit Trammell. He has put on virtually no weight since his playing days, and has kept himself in such good condition that he continues to play in the Hall of Fame Classic even though he’s roughly 20 years older than most of the other participants. Like most of us, Trammell’s face shows signs of age, but his body does not. Even as he approaches his 60th birthday (coming up in February), Trammell continues to amaze.

I imagine that Trammell will be taking a look at this 1983 jersey in the coming weeks. Along with Morris and the other members of the class of 2018 (to be revealed on January 24), Trammell will be visiting Cooperstown this winter for his orientation tour. These tours, which were first introduced in the late 1990s, are designed to give each inductee the chance to tour the Hall of Fame and its archive, while learning about the schedule of activities that will take place during Hall of Fame Weekend. They also give new Hall of Famers a chance to start planning the content of their induction speeches, which will take place on the Sunday of the big weekend.  

It wouldn’t surprise me if Trammell comes back to the Hall for a second time in May, when the annual Classic takes place. And then, of course, he will make the most important visit of the year in July, when he officially joins his Tigers jersey—and a few other personal artifacts, like a ball that he and Lou Whitaker once signed—here in Cooperstown. That will make for a special day, and a day that will leave many of our staff members smiling. They know that Trammell is one of the good ones.

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About Bruce Markusen

Bruce Markusen is the manager of digital and outreach learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. He is the author of seven books on baseball.