Trammel, Vlady, and Thome highlight my HOF Sunday
Three of my favorite players were enshrined yesterday into Baseball’s HOF and I couldn’t have been happier.
I’m not sure why I was a Tiger fan in 1984, but I suspect it had to do with Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammel, and Sweet Lou Whitaker. I watched Alan Trammel and Sweet Lou combine for the best keystone duo of their era and possibly in the history of baseball. Alan Trammel should have been in the HOF long ago, so it was great to see a wrong righted. Sweet Lou did the video for Alan during his introduction and it gave me great satisfaction in knowing that the two players who came up the same day and played together every day of their careers, were still close. I did not know or I had forgotten that Alan and Lou were brought up on the same day, that they both got their first hit against the same pitcher on the same day, and that they both got the last hit of their career against the same pitcher. That is what Alan said during his speech. Knowing that players don’t always recall their history correctly I checked Baseball Reference and sure enough on Sept 9th, 1977, they played in their first game and got their first hits off of Reggie Cleveland. On Sept 13th, 1985 Sweet Lou Whitaker got his last hit against Mike Fetters. One year later on Sept 29th, Alan Trammel go his last hit against Mike Fetters. You can’t make this stuff up. I really hope the veterans committee takes a long look at Sweet Lou and gives him the same honor they gave Alan Trammel.
Vlady Guerrero was my favorite hitter from the moment I first saw him hit bad pitches hard. I had heard that Roberto Clemente had this skill but I had never seen it in action until I got to watch Vlady. Something about watching Vlady play baseball made me smile, and watching him smile again yesterday during the ceremonies put another smile on my face. As Dodger fans, we almost got Vlady in 2004, but instead, he went to the Angels and put on an MVP show for the Angels in 2004. Vlady’s last season for the Angels was 2009, Mike Trout showed up in 2011. How cool would it have been if they could have intersected?
My Tiger fandom of the 1980s’ moved across the Great Lakes to Cleveland during the 1990’s. Jim Thome was a big reason for it. Thome hit home runs during an era where everyone hit home runs, but the stigma of PED never touched the big man and his home runs were of the prodigious variety. I was crushed when the Indians were beaten by Chipper’s Braves in 1995 and then disappointed that the group of Murray, Lofton, Alomar, Baerga, Thome, Manny, Alomar, Vizquel, Pena, and Albert Belle were never able to win a Championship.
Chipper Jones was always a joy to watch but he also played for a team that I never really liked even though I appreciated the skill set of those teams. Chipper gave a nice speech and while Dodger fans don’t remember Andruw Jones with any fondness, I sure do and it was nice for Chipper to acknowledge the greatness of Andruw Jones during the time they tore up NL pitching. A Jones really was the best CF I ever saw play the game.
Jack Morris got a lot of flack from the sabermetric crowd for getting into the HOF but I don’t care. For me, he was a big game pitcher and as they talked of him telling his manager that “I’m not coming out” and proceeding to match his braggadocio with a historic World Series performance I can’t help but remember how much I loved that part of baseball when the starting pitcher shook the catchers hands.
My old man thought on this is that you had to actually watch these starters navigate through nine innings to really appreciate what was going down. The current group of relief options that take over games in the 6th inning is what baseball is now about, but in this instance, give me a nine-inning pitcher any day when it comes to the aesthetics of watching a baseball game.
And yes, given the context the 1991 game seven was one of the best games I’ve ever seen pitched and if that is what got Jack Morris over the bump and into the HOF, so be it.