Tris Speaker

Position: Outfielder
Boston Red Sox, 1907-1915; Cleveland Indians, 1916-1926; Washington Senators, 1927; Philadelphia Athletics, 1928
Manager: Cleveland Indians, 1919-1926
Managerial record: 617-520

Whether Tris Speaker was the greatest fielding center fielder of all time is an argument that can never be settled. All statistical evidence shows that he was the best outfielder of his era, if not ever, and there is no dispute that he revolutionized outfield play more than anyone else in history. His defensive achievements, however, are so prodigious they can mask his outstanding hitting.

Born in Hubbard, Texas, Tristram E Speaker (1888-1958) broke his right arm so badly as a child that he had to relearn how to bat and throw right-handed. Originally a ­pitcher, Speaker moved into the outfield and from the beginning played such a shallow center field that he was in effect a fifth infielder at times.

Hall of Fame Tris Speaker
Tris Speaker was such a fine fielder that it's easy to forget he was also
one of the greatest hitters ever.

In the dead-ball era, when long drives were rare, other outfielders copied Speaker in order to cut down on bloop hits. With the coming of the lively ball era in the early 1920s, however, many observers believed that Speaker's style of play would be rendered outdated. In a sense, they were right. The sudden explosion of long hits made playing shallow impossible -- for virtually every outfielder but Speaker.

Tris joined the Boston Red Sox for good near the end of the 1908 season. A lackluster team at the time, Boston quickly vaulted back into contention because of Speaker's presence. In 1912, he played on his first of two world championship teams in the Hub while pacing the American League in doubles, home runs, and on-base percentage. During his career, "The Grey Eagle" topped the junior circuit in two-base hits a record eight times, amassing 792 doubles, more than any other player in history.

A salary dispute resulted in a trade to the Cleveland Indians after the 1915 season. In his first year with the Indians, Speaker wrested the batting crown from Ty Cobb. In July 1919, the Indians named Speaker player-manager, and Cleveland shot up to second place. In 1920, Cleveland gained its first pennant with Tris batting .388.

In December 1926, he suddenly quit the Indians without explanation. It emerged that he feared being implicated in an alleged plot with Ty Cobb to fix a game in 1919 between Detroit and Cleveland. The two stars were exonerated, though, when Dutch Leonard, a former pitcher who bore a grudge against both Cobb and Speaker, refused to confront the pair in person with his accusations of their crime. In 1937, Speaker was named to the Hall of Fame.

Here are Tris Speaker's major league totals:

.344 2,789 10,208 1,881 3,515 792 223 117 1,559 433

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