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Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker

Position(s):
OF, 1B, P
Nicknames:
The Grey Eagle
Born:
April 4, 1888
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
193 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-14-1907 with BOS
Allstar Selections:
1912 MVP
Hall of Fame:
1937

Intro

Generally regarded as the best defensive center fielder to ever play the game, Tris Speaker was no slouch at the plate, batting .344 in 22 seasons in the American League. Speaker was involved in one of the most controversial trades of his time and later led the Cleveland Indians to their first World Series title, while serving as player/manager. He was the most prolific doubles hitter in history, and also holds major league marks for putouts and assists by an outfielder. He was a key member of the first two Boston Red Sox World Championship teams, in 1912 and 1915. On the Sox he formed one of the greatest outfields in baseball history with teammates Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper.

Minor Leages

1906: Cleburne (North-Texas League) 1907: Houston (Texas League) 1908: Little Rock (Southern Association) 1929-1930: Newark (Intrnational League) In the North-Texas League in 1906, Speaker was a pitcher. He struggled to an 0-7 record before he was tried in center field. Reportedly, in one of his last games as a pitcher, trailing by a lopsided score, Speaker's manager shouted from the bench: "Stay out there, Tris, they haven't got a single hit off you yet!" The hits Speaker had surrendered had all been for extra-bases.

Replaced By

Speaker played sparingly in the second-half of the 1928 season for Connie Mack. Speaker had suffered an injuury, and by the time he healed, the A's were on the winning track with Mule Haas in center field.

Best Season

In 1912 Speaker played in every one of the Red Sox' 153 games, leading the American League in doubles with 53, and home runs with 10. He set a career high with 222 hits, 136 runs, 580 at-bats, and 52 steals. He was at the top of his game. He batted .383, a mark he would surpass three times in his career, but his .567 slugging percentage was the highest of his dead ball days. His total average, a measure of all-around offensive contribution, was a stellar 1.310 - the highest mark of his career. Speaker set a major league record when he had three batting streaks of 20 or more games during the season. In center field he helped the Red Sox pitching staff by stabbing line drives and throwing out greedy base runners. The Red Sox won their first pennant, and in the World Series victory, Speaker led his team with a .300 batting average, nine hits and four runs scored.

Factoid 1

Tris Speaker is the only player to have three hitting streaks of 20 games or more in one season (1912).

Transition

April 12, 1916: Traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians for Sam Jones, Fred Thomas, and $55000 cash; After being fired by the Indians following the 1926 season, Speaker signed as a free agent with the Senators. He signed with Connie Mack's A's in 1928 as a free agent.

Strengths

Defensive range

Weaknesses

None

Description

The likable Speaker was intense on the diamond but well thought of by his teammates and opponents. Interestingly, he was a good friend with Ty Cobb, the most vilified man in baseball. The two shared a love for hunting and were thrown together in the 1926-1927 gambling scandal that threatened to tarnish their image. They were also teammates on the 1928 Philadelphia A's. One can assume they also loved to talk hitting. Cobb considered Speaker the greatest player that he ever played against. For a time, Speaker shared Cobb's dislike for Babe Ruth, commenting in 1921 that "Ruth made a grave mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star."

Your Typical 5-8-3 Double Play

As a center fielder, Speaker played so shallow for most hitters that he was like a fifth infielder, swift of foot, chasing down potential singles. Twice in 1918, he executed an unassisted double play at second base, snaring low line drives on the run and then beating base runners to the bag. At least once in his career he was credited as the pivot man in a routine double play! Bill Carrigan, a longtime teammate of Speaker's on the Red Sox, often times would send a pickoff throw from his catcher's position to Speaker who had snuck in on second base. In addition, as Indians' manager he insisted the team practice a play where he from center field would cover the keystone sack on bunt plays, thus freeing up his shortstop to cover third, and his third baseman to charge the bunts.

Becoming Manager of the Tribe

In Eugene Murdock's Baseball Players and Their Times, George Uhle discusses an incident that occurred in his rookie year with the Cleveland Indians, in 1919: "... According to (Cleveland writer) Franklin Lewis, (manager Lee) Fohl had come to rely heavily on... Speaker for counsel on changing pitchers during a game. If Speaker thought a change would be made he would signal to Fohl in the dugout and also indicate who the replacement would be. In one game in mid-season when things were not going so well, Speaker signaled for a certain pitcher to be brought in from the bullpen. But Fohl misread Speaker's signal and brought in Fritz Coumbe instead of the man Speaker had intended. At first Speaker tried to correct the mistake, but then realized it would look like he was reversing the manager, so he let it pass. It so happened that Coumbe lost the game and that night Fohl resigned as manager and Speaker was named to replace him. Speaker felt badly about the incident because he felt he was the cause of Fohl's departure." 54 years later, Uhle remembered the incident, but couldn't say for sure if Speaker was making the changes because he was still quite new to the team at the time. However, he said it reminded him of another Coumbe story: "I was sitting on the bench with Guy Morton one day when we were playing the Yankees. Coumbe was near by. Babe Ruth came up and got a hit. 'I know how to pitch to that big monkey,' Coumbe remarked. Well he was sent to the bullpen to warm up and later got into the game. 'Now we'll see,' said Morton, 'whether he can pitch to Ruth or not.' Well, Babe knocked the first pitch out of the park. Guy and I both got a big kick out of that and within a day or two, Coumbe was gone just like Fohl." As it turns out, these two events happened in the same game. The Tribe played the Red Sox on July 18, 1919. After Cleveland scored four times in the bottom of the 8th to take a 7-3 lead, Boston countered with a run and Coumbe came in to face Ruth with the bases loaded. The Babe unloaded them with his second homer of the game and the Sox won 8-7. The Sporting News reported that Coumbe cried like a baby and Fohl resigned after the game citing growing criticism from the fans. As the Indians had a history of managers quitting mid-season, TSN correspondent Henry P. Edwards stated that, although the resignation was unexpected, the only real surprise would have been if Speaker was not named manager. (Thanks to Mike Grahek)

Notes

On September 1, 1917 in a game against the Tigers in Cleveland, Speaker was hit with the ball as he tried to steal home in the bottom of the first inning. Batter Joe Evans swung away and lined the ball of Speaker's face. Detroit manager Hughie Jennings, as a courtesy, allowed Speaker to sit out the second inning while his face was sewn up. Elmer Smith played center field until Tris returned in the third. (Source: Retrosheet)... In 19 seasons as a regular, Tris Speaker's teams won at a .561 clip (1607-1260), winning three World Championships.

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Tagged:
1937 Hall of Fame, AL MVP 1912, Boston Red Sox, Center fielder, Cleveland Indians, Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Athletics, The Grey Eagle, Tris Speaker

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