DETROIT — Former Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell had just completed a round of golf in San Diego on Wednesday when he checked his voicemails.
When he saw that his phone wasn’t blowing up with activity, Trammell said he knew that one of his former Tigers teammates, Jack Morris, hadn’t gained entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his 15th and final voting opportunity.
On a day in which Atlanta Braves pitching greats Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas easily surpassed the 75-percent vote total required for enshrinement, Morris came in at 61.5 percent.
Trammell, on his 13th ballot, received 20.8 percent of the vote to fall well short.
"It’s the great debate," Trammell said. "Who gets in and who doesn’t? I appreciate the support of those who voted for us. But I know in my mind, and I know Jack feels that way, too, that I can play with anybody.
"We don’t need to take a backseat to anyone. If you believe in yourself, it’s not being cocky. I can’t change anything, but I think the era I played in was the best.
"And the bottom line is that Jack was the most dominant pitcher in the American League in the 1980s. And for Jack and Lou (Whitaker) and myself, I feel we could’ve played with Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. And they could’ve played with us. But it’s just the way it is, and I’m OK with that."
There wasn’t even a hint of resentment in Trammell’s tone. The talented shortstop was simply stating what he believed.
The statistics of Trammell and second baseman Whitaker, his double-play partner for 19 seasons, stack up quite well with many Hall of Famers at their positions.
Morris has Cooperstown-worthy numbers, too, with 254 victories and World Series stardom. But the 3.90 ERA Morris posted likely cost him election.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com told me that although he "greatly admired" Morris, he didn’t vote for him because "his election would lower the standards of Cooperstown" because of his bloated ERA. Red Ruffing, who pitched for the New York Yankees in the World War II era, has the highest ERA of any Hall of Famer at 3.80.
"I used to have this discussion about the 3.90 with Sparky (Anderson)," said former Tigers pitcher Dan Petry, referring to the late Hall of Fame manager who nurtured the stars of the 1984 World Series champs, including Petry. "He was on the side of questioning why Jack should get in with that ERA. He said, ‘Well, that ERA.’
"I told Sparky, ‘Red Ruffing is in there. And what is one point higher for an ERA for a guy who was among the first to pitch in the era of the designated hitter?’ And I’d say, ‘Sparky, you let this guy pitch all nine (innings) in games we won 8-7 or 7-6 because you left him out there to finish.’"
Petry chuckled before adding, "Sparky said, ‘No, Daniel. No, Daniel. I was afraid to take him out!’"
Anderson and Morris had legendary mound confrontations over his removal from games. Morris often would tell Anderson that he still had more left than the pitcher he had warming up in the bullpen, and once angrily thrust the baseball into Anderson’s hand upon leaving the mound.
"But I saw up close and personal what Jack did as a teammate and an opponent," Petry said, "and not too many in the game did what he did.
"I’m not Jack’s biggest advocate on getting into the Hall, but I’m pretty darned close to that. His dad is a bigger advocate than I am."
Former Tigers All-Star catcher Lance Parrish stands right next to Petry in the advocate line for Morris.
"Jack has to live with the stigma of that ERA," Parrish said. "But on the biggest stage, he rose to the occasion. I would put him on the mound every day I needed to win a game.
"I believe Jack is a Hall of Famer, and that’s good enough for me."
Morris still might be a Hall of Famer in two years, when the 16-member committee for Expansion Era (1973 or later) candidates casts its next vote in December 2016. Trammell, whose final BBWAA vote will come in January 2016, also should be a strong consideration along with Whitaker.
No Tigers player has been voted into the Hall by the BBWAA since Al Kaline in 1980. However, George Kell and Hal Newhouser both reached Cooperstown via the Veterans Committee since then.
So the doors to the shrine could open to Morris, Trammell and even Whitaker in less than three years.
"To me, it doesn’t matter how you get in," Parrish said. "But when it switches to the veteran voters, will they have a better chance? I don’t know. I was just hoping this would be the year."
Trammell said, "My wish is that the Veterans Committee will put in me and Lou together. That would be my dream, me and Lou going in that way.
"It might take a long time. I’d like to be alive to attend it, and the older I get, the story of Lou and I — coming up on the same day (in 1977) and playing together almost 20 years — means more to me.