Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Day I Bumped Into Jack Morris and Alan Trammell

I have not posted anything on this site for a long time, but regardless of how busy my life has become the last few years, I have to say something about Alan Trammell and Jack Morris going into the Hall of Fame via the Modern Era committee.  The 1980s Tigers were my all-time favorite baseball team, so I am so proud to see that squad finally get represented in the Hall of Fame.  The historic 1984 team which started the season 35-5 and went on to win 104 games and the World Series had previously been one of the few championship teams with no Hall of Famers.  So, it has been a long time coming.

 Trammell and 19-year teammate (and double play partner most of those years) Lou Whitaker were the heart and soul of the 80s era Tigers and have never gotten the attention they deserved, not when they played and not when they were up for the regular Hall of Fame vote.  I could write a long analytical piece about why Whitaker should be inducted along with Trammell and why Morris doesn't really belong, but I won't do that today.

For now, I will just enjoy the fact that the 1984 team has finally gotten its' due recognition and will re-tell a tale I wrote several years ago about the time I ran into Morris and Trammell in spring training. The meeting couldn't have captured their personalities (at least the ones I had imagined them to have) more perfectly.  It is something I will never forget.

In the Spring of 1988, my father and I made one of our frequent spring training trips to Florida.  We stayed at the Tigers team hotel in Lakeland that particular year, so I figured I might catch a glimpse of some players.  When we got there, I found out that most of the major leaguers had their own places and didn't stay at the hotel.  So, I didn't see any players the first day, except of course at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The next night, we were in the hotel lobby when I heard a familiar voice.  I knew it was Frank Beckman, who I had heard many times doing news and talk about the Tigers on WJR radio in Detroit.  So, we took the opportunity to talk to Beckman for a few minutes.  It was nothing deep, just some general light talk about the Tigers.

Beckman then had to leave to do some interviews down the hall.  I asked if we could watch the interviews and he said it was OK.  The first interview would be with Sparky Anderson.  There were no seats left in the small interview room, so my father and I stayed in the hall and watched through the open door.

As I was standing there watching Anderson, I saw minor league catcher Chris Hoiles walk by.  I only knew it was him because he had a tee shirt with "Hoiles" hand written on the back of it. While I didn't follow minor leaguers that closely back then, it was still pretty cool to see Hoiles in public.  I was more interested in watching Sparky though.

Then I looked up and noticed somebody much more intriguing than Hoiles.  The Jack Morris (who was next in line to be interviewed) was right next to me watching the interview too.  Apparently, he was also more interested in watching Sparky than talking to Hoiles.  I'm not sure what Hoiles was doing there since he was never interviewed. 

Soon a couple of other fans saw what was going on and timidly asked Morris for an autograph.  Morris did not look thrilled, but he signed without complaint.  As the fans left, Morris backed away and accidentally bumped into me.  Yes, future Hall of Famer Jack Morris and I really did collide.  He turned around, glared at me and mumbled "Scuse me" (He probably wasn't really glaring but he always looks like he's glaring so I'll pretend he was).  I mumbled "hi" and smiled nervously at the Tigers ace.

A few moments later, my father then asked Morris if he was ready for the interview.  Morris turned around and glared at my father (This time I think he really was glaring) and said "Scuse me?".  My father asked him again.  Morris responded with "Are you kidding? I own Beckman.  I'm going to chew him up.

Then none other than Alan Trammell walked in and Morris, probably relieved to get away from the Panases, started talking to him.  Finally, it's time for Morris to go in for the interview.  A few fans came over to get autographs from Trammell.  You could sense that they were more comfortable with Trammell than Morris.  One of them had me to take a picture of her and Trammell.

There was going to be a special event at the hotel the next day and the organizer asked Trammell if he could make it.  He said he couldn't but almost sounded guilty and wanted to know if any other players were going to be there.  He seemed genuinely concerned which is what you would expect from the humble shortstop.

Trammell eventually went to chat with Sparky who had now left the interview room. Trammell said something about how tough it was for young players just starting out.  Then Anderson gave a long rambling tale about something unrelated.  What else would you expect from Anderson?

After a while, Morris came out of the interview room and Trammell asked him how it went.  Morris said: "I gave Beckman some shit.  Then I gave him a little more shit.  Then I gave him all the shit."  Morris knew there were fans around, but he was going to be his own brash self.  It would have been disappointing if he wasn't.

In fact, the great thing about this little interview drama was that there was not a huge crowd around and I could watch players be themselves. There's plenty more to talk about from that interview session - like a glimpse into the secret lives of Willie Hernandez and Gary Pettis - but I'll save that for another time.  Or maybe I won't since I am not sure they would appreciate it.

Today, I want to focus on the two soon to be inducted Hall of Famers.  Yes, the 1984 Tigers finally have some representatives.  Congratulations to Trammell and Morris.


  1. Great to hear from you again Lee. What a nice memory for a father and son. Now I'm wondering about the Hernandez story...Arlie

  2. Arlie, I'll just say that Hernandez seemed to be hitting on every woman in the hotel including Gary Pettis' girl friend. :-)



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