Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell were two of the best to ever don the “Old English D.”
According to many Tigers observers, they also formed the best double play duo in baseball history.
This October will mark the 20th anniversary of the last time the two played together on a major league baseball diamond, as Whitaker retired after playing the final game of the 1995 season alongside Trammell at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
The date was October 1, and each Tigers legend batted once and played one inning in the field before being pulled in a nice gesture by Hall of Fame skipper Sparky Anderson.
To the surprise of many then and today, October 1, 1995 not only also marked Anderson’s final game with the Tigers but also his final game as a big league manager.
As for Trammell, the four-time Gold Glove Award recipient and six-time All-Star played one final season, and thus, was managed by a man other than Sparky for his final campaign on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
Trammell got the “honor” of being managed by Buddy Bell, a man who had no prior managerial experience just like “beloved” current Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus, in his final season in Detroit.
His final season, in which the club bottomed out at 53-109, marked the third straight losing campaign for Detroit and what ended up being year number three of twelve straight sub-.500 campaigns for the Motor City Bengals.
Thus, it can be argued that October 1, 1995, with two of the three final mainstays from the 1984 championship team exiting at day’s end, proved to be the end of an era for Detroit fans who had grown accustomed to spending their summer days at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
Kirk Gibson, the 1984 American League Championship Series MVP and author of one of the most famous homers in franchise history in Game Five of the World Series, was also a member of the ’95 club.
Taking in a ballgame at “The Corner” to see the aforementioned names plus others who came before and after them was a summer ritual that began in 1912 with the opening of Tiger Stadium — then known as Navin Field – and that did not end until September 27, 1999.
However, the environment at the stadium lost its “spark” after the 1995 campaign concluded and failed to regain it until a capacity crowd filled the stands for the team’s final regular season contest at the historic stadium, which had once hosted the likes of Tigers legends and all-time greats Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline.
Players like Cobb, Greenberg and Kaline helped bring a lively atmosphere to the stadium during the time they played, and Trammell and Whitaker did the same during their respective tenures with the Tigers, which both began in 1977.
The allure of seeing Trammell and Whitaker hit in the same lineup and smoothly turn a double play was the last major reason for many Tigers fans to take in a game at the ballpark, such as my father and lifelong fan Jerome Chirco. The ballpark stood for 88 years and bore witness to four World Series championship clubs (1935, 1945, 1968 and ’84).
It was evident in the attendance numbers, as 1995 marked the last time the Tigers brought in close to the league average for attendance for a single season until the inaugural year of Comerica Park in 2000.
It’s why the stadium — before its spectacular ’99 finale — died a little bit on the inside at the conclusion of the ’95 campaign, when “Sweet Lou,” one-half of the longest double-play tandem in MLB history, rode off into the proverbial sunset.