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Trammell, Morris laud scouts' efforts

Wiencek key in early careers of future Hall of Famers
MLB.com @boomskie

When Alan Trammell and Jack Morris are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29, they will not only represent themselves and the organizations for which they played, but also the scouts who signed them.

In the case of the duo above, it was the late Dick Wiencek. At the time, he was with the Tigers, and he had a hand in scouting Morris, but he actually signed Trammell, a smallish Kearny High School shortstop from the San Diego suburbs.

When Alan Trammell and Jack Morris are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29, they will not only represent themselves and the organizations for which they played, but also the scouts who signed them.

In the case of the duo above, it was the late Dick Wiencek. At the time, he was with the Tigers, and he had a hand in scouting Morris, but he actually signed Trammell, a smallish Kearny High School shortstop from the San Diego suburbs.

Trammell and Morris were elected to the Hall by the Modern Era Committee this past December, and Trammell said Wiencek's memory will be invoked in his speech behind the Clark Sports Center that Sunday afternoon.

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"Oh, absolutely," Trammell told MLB.com. "I give Dick a lot of the credit for giving me a chance to play pro ball. That was so long ago, and the Draft and scouting were so different. There was no media attention, no publications doing the leg work about what order in the Draft guys were possibly going to go.

"I was shocked when the Tigers took me in the second round. But again, that was all because of Dick Wiencek, scouting me, keeping an eye on me and recommending me. I mean, I was a 165-pound shortstop."

The 1976 Draft had major positive repercussions for the Tigers, and because of scouts like Wiencek, working under then scouting director Bill Lajoie, the Detroit club collected a massive amount of talent.

Trammell was the 26th overall pick, pitcher Dan Petry was No. 74, Morris was No. 98, and a shortstop named Ozzie Smith was taken with pick No. 146. Wiencek is credited with scouting the first three.

Video: Morris discusses being put in HOF by his peers

Smith, of course, never played for the Tigers, and he was later drafted by the Padres. Still, that's two Hall of Fame shortstops picked in the same Draft.

Trammell, Morris and Petry all played integral roles on the 1984 Tigers team that jumped off to a 35-5 start and beat the Padres in a five-game World Series. Trammell won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award when he batted .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and six RBIs. Morris had two complete-game victories.

The pair had staying power, Morris lasting 14 seasons in Detroit before going on to win another pair of World Series titles with Minnesota and Toronto in his final four years. Trammell played his entire 20-year career with the Tigers. Wiencek had projected Trammell as a kid who might be able to hit .260 in the big leagues. He hit .285.

Trammell, like Hall of Fame right fielder Tony Gwynn, played baseball and basketball in high school. He had signed a letter of intent to play baseball at UCLA, then changed direction when the Tigers drafted him in the second round. Wiencek had been watching.

"Dick told me later he saw me a half a dozen times" Trammell recalled. "He was the guy, who to me, took a shot. Took a shot at a young athletic kid who didn't have any power. But in my mind, I thought I could hit .260."

Long before analytics played such a part in drafting amateur prospects, generations of guys like Wiencek would drive long distances and spend time at dusty fields to watch kids play, looking for a gem.

Trammell said the Kearny High School field had nothing more than a backstop, so it was obvious when scouts stood around and watched the team play.

Wiencek saw Morris, pitching for BYU, on a trip to watch Floyd Bannister throw for Arizona State. Bannister was drafted with the first overall pick in 1976 by the Astros. Morris was in his junior year, and despite the fact he lost that day, Wiencek recommended Morris to Lajoie.

Morris said he was signed by Ed Katalinas, a Tigers scout who passed away in 1988, and he was also credited with signing Hall of Fame right fielder Al Kaline for Detroit.

"But I don't know if Ed ever saw me play," Morris said. "I'm not sure if other scouts just gave Dick Wiencek the credit for signing me."

Wiencek died in 2011. By the time he retired in '03, after 56 years in the game, he had signed 72 players, the most in baseball history, according to data provided by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. In addition to Morris and Trammell, among Wiencek's discoveries were Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, Mark McGwire, Jim Kaat and Graig Nettles.

The fact that there's no process for electing scouts to the Hall of Fame has been a sore subject for years among members of that group. It's a topic of discussion in small circles at the Scout Foundation's annual January dinner, staged by former scout Dennis Gilbert and his staff.

Trammell left no doubt where he stands on the matter. Scouts should be recognized by the Hall. And in July, he'll have a chance to say so.

"No doubt about it," Trammell said. "Maybe I'm old-school and I'm biased about saying this, but the contribution of scouts to the game is huge. And I think that a large percentage of baseball people understand that. Things change. Eras change. Information has always been around. It's just that technology has brought it into the forefront.

"But scouts are still the lifeblood of an organization. Without them, the game wouldn't work. I'm not saying computers are not useful. They are. But you still need those people going out there and seeing players with their own eyes."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

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