Work in Sports
Trammell makes most of new life with Mets
Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2000 8:39 AM
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- As is always the case in the media-consumed world of World Series madness, the winning clubhouse was stuffed to the brim with media folk late Tuesday night.
There were TV cameras on top of radio reporters on top of one man, dressed in a towel and thongs, looking about as out of place as a pink midget on a rainbow trout. So what does Bubba Trammell (Real name: Thomas Bubba Trammell) think of being squashed by 28,965 talking heads ... naked?
"It's not as overwhelming as you'd think," said the Mets pinch hitter extraordinaire, ignoring an elbow to the ribs from Channel 4's finest. "I kinda figured New York would be this way."
New York, on the other hand, knew very little about small-town Bubba (Born and raised in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tenn.) on July 28, the day he and right-handed reliever Rick White were obtained from Tampa Bay for Jason Tyner and Paul Wilson.
To the baseball world, he was a throw-in, the extra player the Mets were required to take in order to help an emergency-room bullpen.
"Not to us," says Mets GM Steve Phillips. "Bubba played parts of three major league seasons, and if you put those numbers together, they looked pretty darn good (33 home runs, 107 RBIs in 511 at-bats). We were getting a right-handed guy with power who could play left and right and come off the bench. That was key -- Bubba as a bat off the bench."
So there were the Mets last night. Bottom of the eighth, runner on third, leading 3-2, no lead a big enough edge with the combustible Armando Benitez closing. As soon as the Yankees brought lefty Mike Stanton into the game to face left-handed pinch hitter Lenny Harris, Trammell figured his number was up. In the second inning, knowing such events might occur, he wandered down to the Mets' batting cage, took a few cuts, then returned to the bench. In the fifth, he repeated the routine. "You always have to be ready," he said. "Because you never know."
In the eighth, Trammell was ready. Stanton's first pitch was a fastball -- ball one. Trammell took a hard cut and fouled off the next offering -- a high curveball. The following pitch, a 71-mph floater of a curve, feathered in for strike two.
"Now, I'm not looking for a pitch or thinking too much," he said. "You want to make contact and hit the ball as hard as you can. That's all you can hope for as a pinch hitter. Good wood."
Ideally, guys like Bubba Trammell -- five-year minor leaguers who endure the hellish depths of Hawaiian Shirt Day at Tropicana Field -- win the big game with monstrous shots to the deep parking lots beyond Shea's blue outfield wall, then kiss the cheerleader. This time, we'll just settle for a gentle sacrifice fly to center, which scored Joe McEwing and gave the Mets a protectable 4-2 lead.
Combined with his two-run pinch-hit single in Game 1, it makes Trammell the Mets' hottest World Series hitter. Two at-bats, two great swings, three RBIs.
White, the other Tampa transfer, remembers the day he and Trammell joined the Mets in New York. As they flew together from Tampa, the two losers-turned-winners talked about what the shock of going from last place to pennant race; of the madness of the Big Apple and the suddenly ripe expectations. Mostly, White remembers Trammell talking about his job.
"He told me, 'I just wanna contribute to a winning team,'" recalled White. "He wanted the chance to play a big role in a big place."
Last night was big. So was Bubba.