Trammell, Morris part of Tigers’ historic 1976 draft
The 2018 MLB Draft, comprised of 40 rounds, will begin on Monday, June 4 and span three days. The Tigers, for the second time in franchise history, will make the first overall selection. Previously, Detroit picked pitcher Matt Anderson first overall in 1997.
Back in 1976, the Tigers, coming off a 57-102 campaign, were picking second. The consensus top overall choice that year was Arizona State junior Floyd Bannister, who was selected first overall by the Astros in the June draft. The hard-throwing southpaw hurler, who went 37-5 in his three varsity seasons, was coming off an 18-1 season with a 1.35 ERA, completing 15 of 20 starts while whiffing 195 batters in 167 innings. Bannister would go on to win 134 games in a 15-year big league career spent with six different teams.
The Tigers’ selection in the first round was left-handed pitcher Pat Underwood from Kokomo (Ind.) High School and brother of big league pitcher Tom Underwood.
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“He’s bigger than his brother and throws harder,” said Tigers Director of Player Development Bill Lajoie to the Detroit Free Press after the draft. “We think he can reach the major leagues in two years, just as his brother did.”
Underwood would go on to compile a 13-18 record in four Tigers seasons. But Detroit’s second round pick, and 26th overall, was high school shortstop Alan Trammell, who would go on to a stellar big league career, playing all 20 of his major league seasons with the Tigers. The six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award winner and 1984 World Series MVP was elected to the Hall of Fame this past December via the Modern Baseball Era Committee.
In the Detroit Free Press’ draft story, it was written of Trammell that he “is rated a fierce competitor and according to scouts, ‘has good running speed, a good arm, great hands and fine instincts – all the tools to become a major league regular at shortstop.’”
A hoop and diamond star at Kearny High School in San Diego, Trammell’s baseball stock rose as the draft approached. According to a profile in a September 1983 issue of Sports Illustrated, “’Maybe it was because I was coming off of basketball," says Trammell. "I do remember I was awfully hot at that time." Both Tiger scouts, Dick Wiencek and Rick Ferrell, liked him a lot, although Ferrell added this caveat: "He could be first-draft choice but down the line. Will develop into a fine def. SS—Ray Oyler type."
Ray Oyler, who played four years with the Tigers, had a lifetime batting average of .175.
Trammell, Morris and Petry were signed by Wiencek, a scout based in California. When he retired in 2003 after 56 years in professional baseball, he had signed 72 players, the most in history at the time according to the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
“I consider myself a professional guesser,” Wiencek said. “And I’m proud to say I’ve guessed right more often than I’ve guessed wrong. That’s about the best any scout can do. If he doesn’t, he’s fired.”
Besides the Tigers, Wiencek also worked for the Senators, Angels, A’s, Twins and Royals. One of the game’s great talent evaluators, his list of players signed also included Bert Blyleven, Mark McGwire, Jim Kaat, Graig Nettles, Steve Kemp and Jason Thompson.
“He was a great man,” Trammell told MLB.com, after Wiencek’s 2011 death. “I owe a lot to him and I give him a lot of credit because of his knowledge and expertise of going a little bit deeper and finding things. He took a chance on some guys and it worked out for him and me.”
In 1976, the Tigers were a member of the Major League Scouting Bureau, which had a staff throughout the United States to do the scouting work for participating clubs. The Tigers also had eight fulltime scouts, including Wiencek, to evaluate the Scouting Bureau’s recommendations.
“That 1976 draft we had Jack, myself, Dan Petry, and our seventh round pick was Ozzie Smith. That’s a pretty good draft,” said Trammell in a recent interview. “Our front office did a nice job there for a few years drafting players that ended up being the nucleus of our 1984 World Series team. It was kind of cool to see how many of us were able to get drafted and to move up through the system to make it to the major leagues and to be major contributors.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum