Sparky Anderson Apparently Had Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker Put on Weight With Steak 'n Shake

Jordan Cohn
June 24, 2020 - 12:15 pm
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"One of a kind... that's one way of putting it."

That was how Alan Trammell responded once acclaimed author and National Baseball Hall of Fame senior research Bruce Markusen brought up longtime Tigers manager Sparky Anderson in a Zoom conference on Monday.

"I have so much respect for Sparky and I'm so privileged and honored to have played (for him)," Trammell said. "I'm so glad that our lives crossed."

Trammell went on to mention that though Les Moss was a good manager and seemed to have inexplicably been replaced in 1979, he knows that the reason was because Detroit couldn't pass on the opportunity to have Sparky Anderson at the helm after he was released by Cincinnati.

"When Sparky came in in June of 1979... I mentioned something about tough love," Trammell said. "I looked at Sparky later on... as an extension of my parents. That was tough love. But he knew the game and he understood this is what we needed... we had a group of young players that needed direction, and Sparky Anderson was that guy. 

"I love the man and I can't thank him enough for taking the time to teach us to play the game the right way and that was just kind of the way it was. It was his way or the highway... he knew exactly what he was doing."

Trammell recalls an incident early in his career that helps to paint the picture of Sparky's way, which coincidentally involved taking a trip down the highway with teammate Lou Whitaker from the Tigers' spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida. Trammell mentions how he and Whitaker were both around 160 pounds, with smaller frames than may not have been appropriate or "normal" for Major League talent.

"We had been in the big leagues a couple years and we were still very skinny," Trammell said of himself and Whitaker. "Sparky used to tell us in spring training, because we roomed together, to go to Steak 'n Shake. 'Every night I want you guys to get a milkshake,' because he wanted us to put a few pounds on... obviously when you get older, that just comes on a little more naturally."

Trammell mentions that the team's tendency to group him and Whitaker together for not only practices and drills but also for team activities, rooming situations and, apparently, eating habits helped the two evolve into the famous double-play combination that still ranks among the greatest in MLB history.

Markusen asked what allowed them to click so well.

"Well, first and foremost, his talent," Trammell said. "There's no question that without the ability, it's not going to work. And then the work ethic, we're both from the same era (when) the work ethic and putting the time is was not an issue. That's just kind of how it was back then... it was more tough love back then.

"Lou was moved from third base to second... and didn't complain after being the MVP of the Florida State League playing for Jim Leyland, and we go to instructional league and he never said a word about 'why are you moving me, I was just the MVP of the league!' "

Whitaker's case for the Hall of Fame rose to new heights after Trammell was inducted in 2018, and the argument is certainly warranted. His career 75.1 WAR is higher than the average WAR of the 20 Hall of Fame second basemen (69.5). However, he only received a 2.9% positive vote share when he appeared on the ballot in 2001, which wasn't enough to keep him on for a second go.

Trammell's highest Hall of Fame vote percentage was 40.9%, in his 15th and final year of eligibility. However, he was voted in along with Jack Morris as part of the Veteran's Committee ballot. Sparky Anderson was inducted as a manager by the Veteran's Committee in 2000.

Tram also shared stories on the call about his first time meeting Al Kaline on an airplance, his memories of former Tigers Willie Horton and Norm Cash, and more.

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