When San Diego pinch hitter Tim Flannery reached second base on a wild pitch in the eighth inning of the fourth game of the Series, he realized he was finally within shouting distance of his old pal Detroit shortstop Alan Trammell. "Hey, Babe Ruth," Flannery bellowed at a smiling, if sheepish, Trammell. "Hey, Babe." The salutation wasn't as inappropriate as it might seem. Trammell, 26, wears Ruth's uniform number, 3—"it's always been my favorite number," he says—and on this memorable day he'd hit with Ruthian authority, cracking a pair of two-run homers that accounted for all of his team's runs in a 4-2 win that gave the Tigers a commanding 3-1 lead in the Series. The home runs, along with a fifth-inning single, brought Trammell's four-game average to a whopping .563. Overall, the Series MVP batted .450 with six RBIs, getting at least two hits and either scoring or batting in a run in each of the first four games. Hey, Babe, indeed.
Trammell, a San Diego native, may have hit like the Sultan of Swat against the team of his boyhood, but he didn't act much like him. Instead of tipping his cap on jubilant tours of the bases, he was a figure of grave dignity. His were home-run trots of surpassing decorum in a Series that had seen homer hitters dance on the paths to the stands, blow kisses and thrust their fists in the air. Trammell has no objections to such exhibitions; they are, he explains, "just not me. I'm all business out there. I don't like to show people up. That's not my style." Indeed, Trammell had to be dragged from the Tiger dugout by pitching coach Roger Craig to answer the fans' demands for a curtain call after the second two-run blast. "It was embarrassing to me," said Trammell. "I like to feel I'm just a regular guy."
He's that, all right, and certainly one of the most popular Tigers, a bright, cheerful and witty presence both in the clubhouse and on the field. He is also, to manager Sparky Anderson, "the best fielding and hitting shortstop I've ever seen. If he has another healthy 10 years, then you be the judge, but I think it'll be impossible to keep him out of the Hall [of Fame]."
"Sparky can really talk," says Trammell, "but he speaks from the heart. He's a good man and he's seen a lot of people play in his day. It's a nice compliment."
The fact is, Trammell knows how good he is. The figures are all there—three .300-plus years in seven full major league seasons, three Gold Gloves, two All-Star selections and, best proof of all, a multimillion-dollar contract that doesn't expire until 1989. Weight training and a closed stance have made him a stronger hitter—he has batted .319 and .314 his last two seasons—and his fielding is impeccable. "Not everybody can be an Ozzie Smith," says Trammell of the acrobatic St. Louis shortstop. "You can't teach that. But you can teach getting in front of the ball, and that's what I do." Trammell has been troubled since midseason by tendinitis in his right shoulder, and his throwing in the final month of the season was noticeably affected by the injury. But it felt fine in the Series, he said. Indeed, a bigger problem is his left knee, which was to undergo arthroscopic surgery for the second time in a year this week. Doctors also planned to examine his shoulder.
Trammell's only regret in the Series was that his victim had to be the Padres, his hometown team. Trammell grew up about three miles from San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and he and his chums regularly sneaked into Padre games. "They'd open the gates early," he recalls, "and we'd just walk in and stay there. When you're drawing only six to eight thousand people, as they were when I was a kid, there wasn't a helluva lot of security. Maybe they were happy to have us there. We didn't pay for tickets, but we were good for a lot at the concession stands."
Trammell, his wife, Barbara, and their two sons still live only three miles—"in another direction"—from the San Diego stadium. But nobody until now has paid much attention to his conflicting living and working arrangements. "I don't think that I'm recognized in too many of the stores around town," he says. Considering what he did to the Padres in this year's Series, however, that will undoubtedly change soon enough.