A conversation with Gates Brown altered Alan Trammell’s career
Alan Trammell hit .285 in his Hall of Fame career. During the All-Star break in 1982, Alan Trammell was floundering. His batting average was .205 and in five and a half seasons in the major leagues, the slim infielder had only managed 22 home runs. During the break, he snuggled up with batting coach Gates […]

Alan Trammell hit .285 in his Hall of Fame career.

During the All-Star break in 1982, Alan Trammell was floundering. His batting average was .205 and in five and a half seasons in the major leagues, the slim infielder had only managed 22 home runs. During the break, he snuggled up with batting coach Gates Brown to rearrange his batting position.

The conversations and punching sessions between Trammell and Brown over the next few days changed the career trajectory of the Detroit shortstop.

In his playing career, Brown was an extraordinary hitter, a thick, round ball of muscle with quick hands and a short, powerful stroke. The Tigers got Gator out of jail, where Brown was locked up for, as he put it, "stealing hubcaps, stealing tires, stealing a little bit of everything." But in the structure of organized baseball, Brown recovered, and in 1968 he had several huge hits on the bench for the Tigers when they won the World Series. His history as a chump-to-champion made him a favorite in the Motor City.

Trammell and Brown knew each other well. The former Detroit Pinch-Hitter was installed as a hitting coach in 1978, the first full season Trammell was in Detroit training. When Sparky Anderson was hired the following spring, he kept Gator on his team. The two men: the former inmate and the sunny-haired kid from Southern California, had a lot of discussion about the beatings. Tram was big on the glove the day he first stepped onto major league ground, but he often found himself lost at home plate.

“I didn't know how to shoot the ball when I first got there,” Trammell said in an interview in 1988. “I tried to make contact, but I didn't think of drive the ball."

During the three-day All-Star break in 1982, Brown helped Trammell find a batting position that would make him more balanced and comfortable. Previously, Trammell had used an open position with the bat in front of his chest. Brown worked with him to close his position and move his hands back. The new position was so closed the pitcher could see Trammell's No.3 uniform and his name on the back of his jersey. But more than optics, position helped keep Trammell from rushing onto the pitch.

The Tigers were in Minnesota to start the second half of the season. Trammell was ninth in batting order. On his third trip to the plate, Trammell threw a pitch down the left wall of the court for a home run. Later, he lined up a single back in the middle. It was a new batting position and better results for the Detroit shortstop. He hit .310 in the second half.

In 1983 Tram hit .319, fourth in the league, and the following year Tram hit .314 and was the MVP in the World Series. He hit two home runs in Game 4 of the 1984 World Series in Detroit. After his second, the first man to shake his hand when he got back into the canoe was his batting mentor, the Gator.

Trammell hit .293 the rest of his career after changing his batting position, and he hit over .300 six times and was All-Star five times. In 1987 he had one of the five most important seasons in shortstop history. This season, Trammell took over the cleanup role in Sparky's roster and hit .343 with 28 home runs and 105 points. It was a remarkable season and helped him rise to the Hall of Fame.

Trammell ended up placing in the top ten among shortstops for hits, total goals, extra base hits and homers. But without Gates Brown's tutoring, Trammell could have remained an Ozzie Smith guy with the bat, instead of becoming one of the best shortstops the game has ever seen.

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