2.2 Major leagues
- 2.2.1 Early years
- 2.2.2 Traded to the Indians
- 2.2.3 Stint as class="toclevel-1 tocsection-8">3 Later life
- 4 Outside of baseball
- 5 Death
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Honors and awards
- 8 Records and achievements
- 9 Regular season statistics
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Tris Speaker was born on April 4, 1888 in Hubbard, Texas, to Archie and Nancy Poer Speaker. As a youth, Speaker became left-handed after breaking his right arm in a fall from a horse. In 1905, Speaker played a year of college baseball for Fort Worth Polytechnic Institute. His left arm was severely injured in a football accident, to the extent that surgeons advised amputation. Tris refused, and fully recovered.Playing careerMinor leagues
Speaker's abilities drew the interest of Doak Roberts, then owner of the Cleburne Railroaders of the Texas League in 1906. After losing several games as a pitcher, Speaker converted to outfielder to replace a Cleburne player who had been struck in the head with a pitch. He batted .318 for the Railroaders, and wanted to be a professional ballplayer, but his mother opposed his being “sold into slavery”. Even after he had had success on the Houston club in the same league in 1907, she stated that she would never consent to her son going to the Boston Americans. Roberts sold the youngster to the Sox for $750 or $800, the Red Sox scout beating the St. Louis Browns by a mere half-hour.
Speaker played in seven games for the Red Sox in 1907, with three hits in 19 at bats for a .158 average. The following year, the Red Sox traded Speaker to the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern League in exchange for use of their facilities for spring training in 1908. Speaker batted .350 for the Travelers and his contract was repurchased by the Red Sox, for whom he appeared in 31 games and logged a .224 batting average.Major leaguesEarly yearsDuffy Lewis, Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper - Boston's famous "Million-Dollar Outfield". Photo: The Boston Globe archives.
Speaker became the regular starting center fielder in 1909 and light-hitting Denny Sullivan was sold to the Cleveland Naps. Speaker hit .309 in 143 games as the team finished third in the pennant race. In 1910 the Red Sox signed left fielder Duffy Lewis. Speaker, Lewis and Harry Hooper would form Boston’s “Million-Dollar Outfield”, one of the finest outfield trios in baseball history. For the next two years, Boston finished second to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s, who were led by their formidable pitching trio of Jack Coombs, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank.
Speaker’s best season came in 1912. He played every game and led the American League (AL) in doubles (53) and home runs (10). He set career highs with 222 hits, 136 runs, 580 at-bats, and 52 steals; his stolen base tally was a team record until Tommy Harper stole 54 bases in 1973. He batted .383 and his .567 slugging percentage was the highest of his dead-ball days. Speaker set a major league single-season record with three batting streaks of twenty or more games (30, 23, and 22). In August, Speaker's mother unsuccessfully attempted to convince him to quit baseball and come home.
The Red Sox won the 1912 AL pennant, finishing 14 games ahead of the Washington Senators and 15 games ahead of the Philadelphia A’s. In the 1912 World Series, Speaker led the Red Sox to their second World Series title by defeating John McGraw's New York Giants. After the second game was called on account of darkness and ended in a tie, the series went to eight games. The Red Sox won the final game after Fred Snodgrass dropped an easy fly ball and later failed to go after a Speaker pop foul. After the pop foul, Speaker tied the game with a single. The Red Sox won the game in the bottom of the tenth inning. Speaker finished the series with a .300 batting average, nine hits and four runs scored.
Speaker batted .338 in 1914 and .322 in 1915. The Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. The Red Sox were led by pitcher Babe Ruth, who was playing in his first full season. Ruth won 18 games and hit a team-high four home runs.Traded to the Indians
After 1915, Red Sox president Joseph Lannin wanted Speaker to take a pay cut from about $15,000 to about $9,000 after his average had fallen to .322; Speaker refused and offered $12,000. On April 8, 1916, Lannin dealt Speaker to the Cleveland Indians. In exchange, Boston received Sad Sam Jones, Fred Thomas and $50,000. The angry Speaker held out for $10,000 of the cash that Boston collected, eventually receiving it with the aid of AL President Ban Johnson. Speaker’s contract with Cleveland for $40,000 was the highest in baseball at the time.[dubious – discuss]
Speaker hit over .350 in ten of his eleven years with Cleveland. In 1916 he ended Ty Cobb's run of nine consecutive AL batting titles by batting .386 to Cobb’s .371. On Speaker's return to Boston on May 9, 1916, over 15,000 fans showed up and roared with approval every time he came near the ball. After one half-inning, Speaker started towards the Boston dugout, and the crowd went wild. His return was only spoiled by the Indians' loss of 5–1.
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 into Speaker's face. As a courtesy, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings 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.
Speaker played a very shallow center field for most hitters, positioning himself not far behind the infield. He executed six career unassisted double plays at second base, snaring low line drives on the run and then beating base runners to the bag. At least once he was credited as the pivot man in a routine double play. Longtime Red Sox teammate Bill Carrigan would send pickoff throws from his catcher's position to Speaker, who had sneaked in on second base. With Cleveland, the team practiced a play where he came in from center field to cover second on bunt plays. This freed his shortstop to cover third base and his third baseman to charge the bunts.Stint as player-manager
From the day that Speaker arrived in Cleveland, manager Lee Fohl rarely made an important move without consulting Speaker. George Uhle recalled an incident from 1919 during his rookie year with the Indians. Speaker would frequently signal to Fohl when he thought that a pitcher should be brought in from the bullpen. One day Fohl misread Speaker's signal and brought in a different pitcher than Speaker had intended. Speaker let the change stand to avoid the appearance of overruling his manager. Fritz Coumbe lost the game, Fohl resigned that night and Speaker became manager. Uhle said that Speaker felt bad for contributing to Fohl's departure.
In 1920, Speaker guided the Indians to their first World Series win. Speaker caught a screaming line drive hit to deep right-center field by Shoeless Joe Jackson in a season-ending game with the Chicago White Sox to win the pennant. On a dead run, Speaker leaped with both feet off the ground, snaring the ball before crashing into a concrete wall. As he lay unconscious from the impact, he still had a viselike grip on the ball. Cleveland's 1920 season had also been significant for the death of Ray Chapman on August 17. Chapman died after being hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays. Chapman had been asked about retirement before the season, and he said that he wanted to help Speaker earn Cleveland's first World Series victory before thinking of retirement.
Speaker singled off Senators pitcher Tom Zachary on May 17, 1925, to become the fifth member of the 3,000 hit club. Only Napoleon Lajoie had previously accomplished the feat as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
AL President Ban Johnson asked Speaker and Detroit manager Ty Cobb to resign their posts after a scandal broke in 1926. Pitcher Dutch Leonard claimed that Speaker and Cobb fixed at least one Cleveland-Detroit game. In a newspaper column published shortly before the hearings were to begin, Billy Evans characterized the accusations as "purely a matter of personal revenge" for Leonard. The pitcher was said to be upset with Cobb and Speaker after a trade ended with Leonard in the minor leagues. When Leonard refused to appear at the January 5, 1927 hearings to discuss his accusations, Commissioner Landis cleared both Speaker and Cobb of any wrongdoing. Both were reinstated to their original teams, but each team declared its manager free to sign elsewhere. Speaker did not return to big league managing and he finished his MLB managerial career with a 617–520 record.
At the time of his 1926 resignation, news reports described Speaker as permanently retiring from baseball to pursue business ventures. However, Speaker signed to play with the Washington Senators for 1927. Cobb joined the Philadelphia Athletics. Speaker joined Cobb in Philadelphia for the 1928 season; he played part-time and finished with a .267 average.Later life
In 1929 Speaker replaced Walter Johnson as the manager of the Newark Bears of the International League. In two seasons with Newark, he also appeared as a player in 59 games. When Speaker resigned during his second season, the Bears were in seventh place after a sixth-place finish in 1929. In January 1933 he became a part owner and manager of the Kansas City Blues. By May, Speaker had been replaced as manager but remained secretary of the club. By 1936, Speaker had sold his share of the team.
In 1937, Speaker sustained a 16-foot fall while working on a flower box near a second-story window at his home. Upon admission to the hospital, he underwent facial surgery. He was described as having "better than an even chance to live" and was suffering from a skull fracture, a broken arm and possible internal injuries. He ultimately recovered.
In 1939, Speaker was president of the National Professional Indoor Baseball League. The league had teams in New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis. The league shut down operations due to poor attendance only two months after its formation.
From 1947 to his death, Speaker was an adviser, coach, and scout for the Indians. In an article in the July 1952 issue of SPORT, Speaker recounted how Bill Veeck hired him to be a coaching consultant to Larry Doby, who had become the American League's first black player and just the second player to cross the baseball color barrier in Major League Baseball. The Indians had signed Doby, the star center fielder of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, in 1947. A SPORT photograph that accompanied the article shows Speaker mentoring five members of the Indians: Luke Easter, Jim Hegan, Ray Boone, Al Rosen and Doby.Outside of baseball
Speaker enrolled at Boston Institute of Technology in 1918 for purposes of becoming an aviator. He also owned a ranch in Texas and competed in roping events during the baseball offseason. Speaker was one of the founders of Cleveland's Society for Crippled Children and he helped to promote the society's rehabilitation center, Camp Cheerful. Speaker served as vice president of the society, ran fundraising campaigns and received a distinguished service award from the organization.
After his playing and managing days, Speaker was an entrepreneur and salesman. By 1937, Speaker had opened a wholesale liquor business and worked as a state sales representative for a steel company. He chaired Cleveland's boxing commission between 1936 and 1943. Newspaper coverage credited Speaker with several key reforms to boxing in Cleveland, including the recruitment of new officials and protections against fight fixing. Under Speaker, fight payouts went directly to boxers rather than managers.Death
Speaker died of a heart attack on December 8, 1958 in Lake Whitney, Texas. He collapsed on a fishing trip with a friend as they were pulling their boat back into the dock. He was 70 years old. Speaker had suffered a previous heart attack four years prior to his death. Speaker was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Hubbard, Texas.Legacy
After Speaker's death, Ty Cobb said, "Terribly depressed. I never let him know how much I admired him when we were playing against each other... It was only after we finally became teammates and then retired that I could tell Tris Speaker of the underlying respect I had for him." Nap Lajoie stated, "He was one of the greatest fellows I ever knew, both as a baseball player and as a gentleman."
Immediately after Speaker's death, the baseball field at the city park in Cleburne, Texas was renamed in honor of Speaker. In 1961, the Tris Speaker Memorial Award was created by the Baseball Writers Association of America to honor players or officials who make outstanding contributions to baseball.
In 2008, former baseball executive Marvin Miller opined that Speaker should be removed from the Hall of Fame because of alleged membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Miller said, "Some of the early people inducted in the Hall were members of the Ku Klux Klan: Tris Speaker, Cap Anson, and some people suspect Ty Cobb as well. I think that by and large, the players, and certainly the ones I knew, are good people. But the Hall is full of villains." Baseball historian Bill James does not refute this claim, but adds that the Klan had toned down its racist overtures during the 1920s and pulled in hundreds of thousands of non-racist men, including Hugo Black. James adds that Speaker was a staunch supporter of Doby when he broke the American League color barrier, working long hours with the former second baseman on how to play the outfield.:p.105
Speaker is mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:Line-Up for Yesterday
S is for Speaker,— Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)Honors and awards
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, "I surrender."
In 1937, Speaker was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during its second year of balloting. He was honored at the hall's first induction ceremony in 1939. When Speaker was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1951, he became the first American athlete inducted into a state sports hall of fame. In 1999, he ranked number 27 on the Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.Records and achievements
- Most career doubles (792)
- Most career outfield assists (449)
- Sixth highest lifetime major-league batting average (.345)
- Fifth in career hits
- Sixth in career triples
- Eighth in career runs
- Led American League in batting 1 time
- Led American League in slugging percentage 1 time
- Led American League in on base percentage 4 times
- Led American League in hits 1 time
- Led American League in total bases 1 time
- Led American League in doubles 8 times
- Led American League in home runs 1 time
- Led American League outfielders in putouts 7 times
- Led American League outfielders in double plays 6 times
- Led American League outfielders in assists 3 times
- Led American League outfielders in fielding average 2 times
- Batted over .380 five times
- Struck out only 220 times in 10,195 at-bats (although his page at Tris Speaker statistics shows that records of strikeouts were not kept for the first six years of his career. Still, in the seasons in which records were kept, he never struck out more than 25 times).
- In 1912, became the first player to reach 50 stolen bases and 50 doubles in a season. Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros accomplished the feat in 1998.
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1921 W551 Tris Speaker Strip Baseball Card Hof Post T206 Era Vtg Old Original: