Alan Trammell is key to success of Tigers at bat and in the field

After pulling the prized piece of wood from his locker, shortstop Alan Trammell kissed it, then handed the bat over the heads of a sea of reporters. An official of the Detroit Tigers collected the coveted hitting implement - the one used to blast a pair of two-run homers against San Diego in Game 4 of the World Series - for delivery to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Trammell, it seems , could someday follow this piece of finely turned lumber to Cooperstown, N.Y.

If that ever happens, he can look back at this year's World Series as an important stepping stone. And not just for his heroics in Saturday's victory, which pushed Detroit to the brink of its fourth world championship with a 3-1 margin. But also for his excellence throughout the Series, which has brought his multiple talents front and center.

''If he isn't the best looking shortstop I've ever seen, well, I don't know who is,'' says Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson, who has compared Trammell (pronounced TRAM-mul) to Pee Wee Reese of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

''That's a nice compliment coming from Sparky, who speaks from the heart,'' says Trammell.

The World Series, of course, is just the vehicle Anderson has sought for his cheerleading. ''When Sparky came here (in 1979) he told us that the only people who know about Detroit players live in the state of Michigan,'' Trammell recalls. ''He said, 'My job is to get you guys known around the country.'''

To do that he and the front office embarked on a building program via the trade mart, free agency, and the farm system - but one area they left alone was the team's promising young infield tandem of Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker. Sparky recognized right away that here he had the cornerstone of the championship club he was trying to put together - a pair of outstanding second-year players who sealed off the middle on defense and even then showed signs of developing into one of the game's best double-play combinations.

The ability to hit is considered a bonus at these key defensive positions. In Trammell and Whitaker, though, the Tigers have struck it rich, for both have regularly been important contributors on offense as well. They batted .314 and . 289 respectively this season and were excellent ''table setters'' at the top of the batting order.

Anderson doesn't hesitate in calling them the key to the attack. ''If you stop those two you'll beat us,'' he states flatly, ''but if you don't you won't beat us. No chance.''

Game 4, you might say, was a variation on the theme. For when Whitaker set the table by getting on, Trammell cleared it off, knocking him home each of the first two times up. Maybe his teammates should start calling him ''Busboy,'' instead of ''Tram.'' Certainly there's not a more boyish-looking 26-year-old in the majors.

''When Lou's on base I feel I'm a much better hitter. I guess it's just contagious,'' says Trammell.

As for his show of power, well, he calls that ''a coincidence. I'm no home run hitter.''

For a guy six-feet and 175 lbs., though, he hits his share. By increasing his power through weightlifting he hit 14 each in both 1983 and '84. He's socked two homers in one game twice before. He even wears Babe Ruth's number (3).

He clearly looked like a slugger Saturday, depositing a fastball just inside the left-field foul pole in the first inning, then sending ''a hanging slider'' to the upper deck of Tiger Stadium in the third.

The homers, the sixth and seventh off Padre hurler Eric Show in post-season play, sent statistic sleuths scurrying to the record books.

What they found was that Trammell's back-to-back clouts marked the 33rd multiple home run performance in World Series play, but the first such feat by a shortstop since Boston's Rico Petrocelli did it in 1967.

More important, however, was the quick lead the initial blast gave the Tigers , a team that is accustomed to breaking the scoring ice.

The early lead particularly pleased Jack Morris, who picked up his second complete-game victory of the Series. ''A lot of pitchers think it's easier to pitch from behind, but not me. Give me some runs and I really bear down,'' he said afterwards.

If Trammell's homers pleased Morris, they absolutely delighted the hometown crowd, whose loud, prolonged cheers coaxed Alan into tipping his cap from the dugout steps after roundtripper No. 2.

It was a rather discreet acknowledgment, far less flamboyant than the kiss the Padres' Kurt Bevacqua blew to the fans after homering in San Diego in Game 2 . Though an outgoing, good-natured ''agitator'' in the clubhouse, Trammell says it's not his style to display much outward emotion. ''I'm just all business on the field,'' he says. ''Coming out for a curtain call is embarrassing. I don't want to show anybody up.''

He is very much a workmanlike, no frills player. Unlike St. Louis's Ozzie Smith, a naturally acrobatic shortstop, Trammell has always concentrated on getting squarely in front of groundballs and making accurate, overhand throws.

Whitaker, who first met Trammell in the minors in the mid-'70s, remembers him being a ''very sweet fielder'' even back then, ''fluid with good hands. He didn't hit as well as he does now, but his batting has improved with maturity. He's learned the pitchers and the situations.''

So much so that on his third time up Saturday he was more intent on hitting behind the runner, Whitaker, than swinging for the fences. In singling to right field, he notched his ninth hit in 16 World Series at-bats, a .563 average that was by far the best on either team through the first four games. He also cracked his home run bat - the one headed for Cooperstown.

Collecting cracked bats before games actually used to be one of Alan's pastimes. That is, during his junior high school days in San Diego, where he'd sneak into Jack Murphy Stadium to watch the Padres play.

Truth be known, he's still a Californian at heart, and runs a baseball camp during the off-season with Padre Terry Flannery in San Diego, where he also is a regular golfing partner of Tiger coach and ex-Padre manager Roger Craig.

When they tee it up this winter, Trammell's Series power surge will surely be a popular topic. After Game 4, though, Alan's immediate concern was what his wife, Barbara, would say when he got home.

With a house full of relatives visiting them, he had accidentally left for the ballpark with the keys to her van. Gulp.

As one wit remarked, that was his only error on an otherwise grand afternoon.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.