When the San Diego Chargers announced last week they were moving to Los Angeles, it marked the end of the road for Qualcomm Stadium, at least as a major league venue. One former Tiger who has a wealth of memories stored up there is Alan Trammell. And not just because it was the site of Games One and Two of the 1984 World Series.
Trammell was born in Garden Grove, California, outside Los Angeles, but he grew up in San Diego. As a ten-year-old, he was appointed by his teacher to watch Game Seven of the 1968 World Series in the back of the classroom and report regularly to the class. The following year, Trammell rejoiced when San Diego got a major league team of its own.
Trammell went to countless Padres games, not always as a paying customer. He and his friends would arrive at the stadium early enough that no one was taking tickets yet, and either find an unlocked gate or slither under a locked one, according to Todd Masters’ recent book Trammell: Detroit’s Iconic Shortstop. Then they’d kill hours in the empty stadium waiting for the game to start. Trammell kept an outdated ticket stub in his pocket to flash to anyone who hassled him. Later he entered the stadium more legitimately, working as a vendor at Chargers games.
Trammell played basketball and baseball at San Diego’s Kearny High School, where he was scouted by the Tigers, who drafted him in the second round of the amateur draft in 1976. He graduated from high school and reported to rookie ball the following week. He was only 18 years old and was very much a fuzzy-faced teenager.
In 1984, the Tigers looked to be headed for a World Series rematch with the Chicago Cubs, their fifth such meeting since 1907. The Cubs had the NL’s best record and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 NLCS. When the ball went through Leon Durham’s legs and the Cubs collapsed, it seemed like a malfunction of fate. Instead of a World Series date with history, the Tigers would face a team that didn’t even exist the last time they won it all.
But to Alan Trammell, it felt just right. The bland, multipurpose Jack Murphy Stadium had exactly zero of the history and charm of Wrigley Field, but childhood is enough to consecrate a stadium as sacred. And now Trammell, no longer fuzzy faced and a seven-year veteran, would play the World Series in two home parks. Instead of sleeping at the Tigers’ hotel in San Diego, he made the 10-minute drive home from the stadium to stay with his wife and boys.
Properly pledging his loyalty, Trammell nonetheless allowed to a reporter before the World Series started, “We want very badly to win, but if the Tigers can’t win the World Series there’s no other team I’d rather see do it than the Padres.” His comments appeared under the seemingly traitorous headline, “Tigers’ Trammell a Fan of Padres.”
At the time of the ’84 Series, the Padres had an up-and-comer in right field named Tony Gwynn, who would one day win seven batting titles. In the Series, Trammell was able to see Gwynn up close for the first and only time.
Trammell’s debut at Jack Murphy Stadium came almost immediately. Lou Whitaker led off Game 1 with a double that bounced off the warning track. After working the count full and fouling off several pitches, Trammell singled to left to score Whitaker. Two batters in, the Tigers had a 1-0 lead. It set the tone for a series in which the Tigers would score nine first-inning runs and Padres starters would average just over two innings each.
Trammell’s greatest Series heroics came in Detroit, where he drove in all four Tigers runs in their 4-2 win in Game Four on a pair of two-run homers (scoring longtime keystone mate Whitaker each time). Trammell finished 9-for-20 for the series with those two home runs and six RBIs, and was named World Series MVP.
In 1984, home field advantage in the World Series still alternated between the American and National Leagues, and it was the NL’s turn. The 2-3-2 format put the middle three games at Tiger Stadium. After Game Four gave them a 3-1 series lead, the Tigers wanted to finish it off in front of the home crowd. Thanks in large part to Kirk Gibson’s three-run blast off Goose Gossage in Game Five, they did.
Nobody wanted to go back to San Diego. But after the decisive Game Five and the Tigers’ championship parade, that’s just what Alan Trammell did.