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Short To Second To None
Steve Wulf
September 12, 1983
The Keystone Kids, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, keep the Detroit Tigers purring in the AL East race
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September 12, 1983

Short To Second To None

The Keystone Kids, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, keep the Detroit Tigers purring in the AL East race

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THE COMBO THAT PLAYS TOGETHER HITS TOGETHER

Trammell and Whitaker are not only linked as a double-play combination but as hitters. Note the similarity in their lifetime stats:

G

AB

R

H

2b

3b

HR

RBI

GW*

BB

SO

SB

E

BA

TRAMMELL

824

2,798

414

783

123

22

42

298

33

308

319

82

91

.2798

WHITAKER

818

2,848

426

796

114

34

38

308

32

364

377

72

68

.2794

*Since 1979

One name can hardly be spoken without the other. Whitaker and Trammell, love and marriage, horse and carriage, ebony and ivory, together in perfect harmony, side by side...forget it—Trammaker.

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker are the Detroit Tigers' double-play combination, one of the best, if not the best, in show. The scouting report on the two used to be great field, fair hit. But this year they are among the American League's top six batters, Trammell at .327 and Whitaker at .316. Chances are they'll be the first members of an AL keystone combo to hit .300 since Chicago's Luke Appling (.301) and Cass Michaels (.308) in 1949. Great field, great hit.

Trammell has 14 home runs and 62 RBIs, Whitaker 11 and 60. Trammaker played in the minors together; they arrived in the majors precisely the same day; they roomed together for four years; their lockers adjoin; they're linked alphabetically on the Tiger roster; they usually bat one-two in the lineup; Whitaker wears uniform No. I and Trammell No. 3 (No. 2 was retired for Charlie Gehringer); they have used the same agent; and they both have four years remaining on their multimillion-dollar contracts with the Tigers.

Whitaker bats left and Trammell right, but that only adds to the symmetry. There's also an age discrepancy: Whitaker is 26 and Trammell is 25. But they are the same age 11 weeks out of every year, and, anyway, they both still look as if they're eligible for the junior prom.

Trammell is the shortstop, and although he may not be as spectacular as the Cardinals' Ozzie Smith, he has won two Gold Gloves. Whitaker has never won a Gold Glove, but that's only because Frank White of Kansas City plays second in the same league. Together, Whitaker and Trammell have made just 21 errors this year, or 9 fewer than Second Baseman Steve Sax of the Dodgers.

Tiger fans love them both. Whitaker's first name is a constant cheer in Detroit, even after he catches a routine pop-up. When, on Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer Day last June 12, Gehringer was introduced by Al Kaline as "the greatest second baseman in Tiger history," the crowd began to chant "Loooo, Loooo, Loooo." Says Gehringer, who is in the Hall of Fame, "That's all right, they never saw me play."

Trammell's following is not as loud, but he's always warmly greeted when he steps to the plate. On Aug. 12 against New York, when he hit the second of his two home runs to send the game into extra innings, Tiger Stadium shook to its ancient rafters. After the game, which Detroit won 7-6, Whitaker said to Trammell, "You're awesome."

And Trammell replied, "But you've been awesome all season." Score the compliment 4-6-4. Trammaker is a big reason Detroit is in second place in the AL East, four games behind Baltimore.

Whitaker and Trammell do have different backgrounds—geographically, economically, culturally and athletically. Whitaker grew up poor in Martinsville, Va., a town of some 20,000 located at the bottom of the state and the economic scale. Trammell was raised in San Diego, and his family was moderately well-to-do. Whitaker was born in Brooklyn, but when he was a year old, his mother, Marian, pregnant with Louis Jr.'s sister Matilda, left Brooklyn to live with her family in Martinsville. They moved into a big house on Williams Street, which eventually held 16—mother, grandmother, one brother, three sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins. Lou knew his father only from what he heard, and what he heard wasn't very good.

Arlene Whitaker (her family eschews Marian) worked the night shift, 5 p.m. to midnight, at Stone's Drive-In to support her family, and young Louis waited up for her most nights. They had food on the table, but not much more. When Lou's legs grew crooked, the family couldn't afford orthopedic help, so his uncles twisted and turned them inward every day. "Somehow they began to straighten out," he told Tommy George of the Detroit Free Press. For a time he had to walk on his toes, and his friends called him Tippy-Toes.

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