There has never been an “ultimate grand slam” that wasn’t thrilling.
What’s an “ultimate grand slam.” It is a grand slam hit with a team behind by three runs and in a walk-off situation. And for the first time in Tigers history, Alan Trammell did it on June 21, 1988.
In 2014, I was interviewing Trammell for another story. When we finished that topic, I felt I needed to bring up the “ultimate grand slam.” I wondered what he remembered about it. It turned out he remembered everything.
Here is the story:
On June 21, 1988, Alan Trammell did something that had never been done in franchise history.
He hit a walk-off grand slam with his team trailing by three runs. It has happened just nine other times in major-league history.
“Those are things you don’t forget,” Trammell said, nearly 26 years after the game, and he immediately rattled off the pitcher he victimized (Cecilio Guante) and the count (3-and-2).
It was a Tuesday night against the New York Yankees at Tiger Stadium with an announced crowd of 26,535. It is anyone’s guess as to how many left with the Yankees leading 6-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Those who left early probably did so in hopes of watching the Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Pistons lost that one. The Tigers made a memory.
Dave Bergman pinch-hit for Larry Herndon and singled to left to lead off the ninth, and Darrell Evans followed with a walk. Yankees manager Billy Martin then replaced right-hander Neil Allen with his closer, left-hander Dave Righetti, who gave up a single to Matt Nokes to load the bases with none out.
Righetti then retired Pat Sheridan on a liner to center and struck out Tom Brookens. However, Righetti issued back-to-back walks to Lou Whitaker and Luis Salazar as the Tigers cut the lead to 6-3 and still had the bases loaded. At that point, Martin brought in Guante, a right-hander who the night before had given up a walk-off home run to Brookens in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“I don’t know how many at-bats I had against (Guante), but he was tough on right-handers,” Trammell said. “He dropped down to the side, and he was more of an uncomfortable at-bat for a right-handed hitter. I’m sure the odds were that was the way to go, but unfortunately in this game, the odds don’t always work out.
“I’m sure it was the right matchup. I faced Righetti over the years, and I don’t know what my numbers were against him, but I’m sure it was a matchup thing – righty against righty.”
On Guante’s 3-and-2 pitch, Trammell homered off the facing of the upper deck in left field to win the game 7-6.
“The runners were moving, and I got a pitch that was in the middle of the plate,” Trammell said. “I’m sure (Guante) was just throwing a strike, and I happened to hit it out of the ballpark.”
While the walk-off grand slam has only happened 10 times, Trammell not only did it, he had it done against him two years earlier in Anaheim. Angels shortstop Dick Schofield hit one off Willie Hernandez to cap an eight-run rally in the ninth inning for a 13-12 victory.
Trammell’s memory of that day was as spot-on as it was for his walk-off grand slam.
“That wasn’t a good day,” he said. “We had a huge lead going into the ninth inning – we were up 12-5 – and we lost that game. If I’m not mistaken, that was 1986, and that was the year the Angels had a tremendous year and things were going well for them. The next night, Doug DeCinces hit a walk-off home run for them against us, so they had a good year and a good series.”
In fact, the walk-off home run by DeCinces was a two-run shot off Bill Campbell for a 5-4 victory.
But back to 1988 and the homer against the Yankees.
“We won three games in a row against the Yankees – all come from behind late wins,” Trammell said, “and after that three-game series, (owner) George (Steinbrenner) let Billy Martin go for the fifth time – and the last time.
“That was it. He never managed again after that.”
Once again, Trammell’s memory was spot-on. The night after his grand slam, the Tigers beat the Yankees in 10 innings to complete the sweep. Salazar delivered a game-winning single to score Brookens and end the managerial career of Martin, who was fired the next day and replaced by Lou Pinella.
Trammell, meanwhile, played eight more seasons with the Tigers and retired with 20 years in the big leagues – all with Detroit. That is something that is very special to Trammell.
“It got to a point where it meant a whole lot,” Trammell said of playing his entire career in Detroit. “When people say my name, I think that’s one of the first things that comes to mind is that I’m a guy who played with one team his whole career.”
Trammell played 2,293 games for the Tigers and hit .285 with 185 home runs and 1,003 RBIs. He finished second in the voting for the 1987 American League MVP Award, won four Gold Gloves at shortstop and three Silver Slugger Awards and was the MVP of the 1984 World Series.
He hit just 19 home runs in his first four seasons but had at least 13 in each season from 1983-88.
“As I matured and learned hitting, my strength was that I could use the whole field,” he said. “As I hit for power, I would hit the double down the line – I hit quite a few of them.
“I had a short stroke, and I wasn’t the strongest guy in the world, but as I matured I got a little bigger and learned the pitchers and their tendencies and how they were going to pitch me.
“Things worked out.”