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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Tristram E. Speaker 1
Also known as:
Tris Speaker, "The Grey Eagle", 1
Birth:
04 Apr 1888 1
Hubbard, TX 1
Male 1
Death:
08 Dec 1958 1
Lake Whitney, Texas 1
Cause: Heart Failure 1
Burial:
Burial Place: Fairview Cemetery, Hubbard, TX 1
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Birth:
Mother: Nancy Poer Speaker 1
Father: Archie Speaker 1
Marriage:
Mary Frances Cuddihy 1
1925 1
Spouse Death Date: 01 Nov 1960 1
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Occupation:
Baseball Player 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Employment:
Employer: Philadelphia Athletics 1
Position: Outfield 1
Place: Philadelphia PA 1
Start Date: 1928 1
End Date: 1928 1
Employment:
Employer: Washington Senators 1
Position: Outfield 1
Place: Washington DC 1
Start Date: 1927 1
End Date: 1927 1
Employment:
Employer: Cleveland Indians 1
Position: Outfield 1
Place: Cleveland OH 1
Start Date: 1916 1
End Date: 1926 1
Employment:
Employer: Boston Americans/Red Sox 1
Position: Outfield 1
Place: Boston MA 1
Start Date: 1907 1
End Date: 1915 1

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Stories

Tris Speaker, Outfielder, Dies; Ex-Star for Red Sox and Indians ‘Gray Eagle,’ Who Batted .344, Was Cleveland Manager – Elected to Hall of Fame

WHITNEY, Tex., Dec. 8 – Tris Speaker, the former great “Gray Eagle” of American League outfields died of a heart attack. He was 70 years old.

The baseball Hall of Fame member was on a fishing trip with a friend, Charles Vaughan, of near-by Hubbard,Speaker’s birthplace.

Besides his widow, Frances, Speaker is survived by two sisters. They are Mrs. Pearl Scott of Hubbard and Mrs. Alma Lindsey of Abilene.

When Tris Speaker was a young cowboy in Texas, he suffered a broken right arm in a fall from a horse and became a left-handed pitcher. Then his left arm was injured in a football accident. Surgeons advised amputation, but he refused. He recovered to become one of baseball’s great hitters and outfielders, a manager of a world’s championship team and seventh member of the game’s Hall of Fame.

The indomitable will of young Speaker attracted a discerning baseball man, Doak Roberts, then owner of the Houston club of the Texas League, in the town of Cleburne in 1906.

The boy, 17, was the sensation of his town after two years at Fort Worth Polytechnic Institute. Not only was he a winning pitcher, but he was a battler. He wanted to be a professional ballplayer, but his mother opposed his being “sold into slavery.” She said she would never give her consent to her son’s going to the Red Sox, even after he had made a success at Houston.

His mother was won over. Mr. Roberts had faith that young Speaker would make the grade, and he sold the youngster to the Sox for $800 – the Boston scout beating the Browns of St. Louis by a mere half-hour.

And in seven years Mrs. Speaker’s boy became the highest-paid player in the American League when he signed a contract with Joseph J. Lannin of the Red Sox for $16,000 a year and a $5,000 bonus on a two-year contract. He later received $40,000, highest until the advent of Babe Ruth.

The Texas youngster played most of 1908 at Little Rock, Ark., where he had been “farmed” for development. But in 1909 he got his first real start. He batted .309 in 143 games for Boston and the team finished third. They bowed to the Athletics of CoombsBender and Plank fame in 1910 and 1911, but in 1912 they won the pennant – Speaker batting .363 – and they took the world’s championship from the Giants on the memorable “$30,000 muff” of Fred Snodgrass.

Competed With Cobb

But always in front of Speaker in his striving for the top was another Southerner, Tyrus Raymond Cobb. Two years ahead of the Texan in coming to the majors, the fiery Georgian was the idol of the fans, and it took years of wearing work for the sheer merit of the newcomer to show.

But for the batting prowess of Cobb, who reigned supreme in the years when Speaker was at his best with the Red Sox, the graceful Texan might have been acknowledged the greatest all-around outfielder of his time. Beginning with 1910, he always gave the Georgia Peach a battle for batting honors, finishing second on many occasions with averages that would have been good for titles in other years. Speaker lost with .383 to the Tiger star’s .410 in 1912 and with .365 to .390 in 1913.

That was when he was the pivot man in what is often referred to as the greatest outfield of all time theSpeaker-Duffy Lewis-Harry Hooper combinations in Boston. He batted .338 in 1914 and .322 in 1915, the year he led the Red Sox to a world series victory over the Phillies.

Caught Up With Cobb

It was not until 1916 that Speaker caught up with Cobb. He had been traded that winter to the Indians. He came through the season with .336 and stopped Cobb’s incredible consecutive winning streak at nine seasons to take the American League batting title.

Speaker never won it again, but his lifetime average of .344 attests to his worth on the offense. He reached .388 in 1920 only to fall before Sisler’s .407; .378 in 1922 to find Sisler ahead again with .420 and in 1923 and 1925 he reached .380 and .389 only to come up against Harry Heilmann in his best years with .403 and .393.

But as a defensive outfielder neither CobbHeilmannMostilFelsch of the tarnished Black Sox, Hofmann,Carey nor Roush of the National League starts of his time, to name only a few – ever excelled Speaker in covering ground, throwing prowess, canniness as to “playing” hitters and general all-around grace in action. He was remarkable in his ability to go back after a far-driven ball. It was often said that only the fence stopped him. Sometimes it didn’t do even that, for he once jumped over a fence in Washington to make a remarkable catch.

So great was Speaker’s ability at covering ground in center that for years before the lively ball came into play he would anchor himself for many batsmen not more than forty feet behind second base. It is almost legend how he would come in and cover the bag on infield plays. Many times he would slip behind a runner watching the shortstop and second baseman, take the throw from the pitcher or catcher, and tag the amazed victim.

Managed the Indians

Speaker became the manager of the Indians on July 10, 1919, succeeding Lee Fohl. They finished second in 1919 and first the next year. The Indians went on to capture the world championship from the Dodgers underWilbert Robinson, with manager Speaker showing fine judgment in handling his pitchers, and leading his team with hard hitting – he batted .324 and fine fielding.

That was his only pennant and the only pennant Cleveland was to win until 1918. The star of Miller Hugginswas rising in the East and the Yankees won in 1921, 1922 and 1923. In 1921 Speaker finished second. In 1922 he was fourth, in 1923 he was third and then sixth in 1924 and 1925. After he had brought his team home second in 1926 – again trailing the Huggins-trained Yankees – he resigned as a manager.

The next season Speaker was in the outfield for the Senators and Cobb was with the Athletics. The great rivals, curiously enough, closed their big league careers on the same team – playing with Connie Mack on the athletics in 1928. Then Cobb retired and Speaker became the manager of the Newark Bears, a post he held for two years.

Speaker had been associated with baseball in different capacities during later seasons. He turned to broadcasting games and his knowledge of the diamond made him a favorite. He also became a part owner of the American Association.

The announcement of Speaker’s election to baseball’s Hall of Fame was made in January, 1937. At the time he was in the wholesale liquor business in Cleveland and was chairman of the city’s Boxing Commission.

Additional honors were accorded to Speaker in 1952, when he was named to an all-star team of baseball’s greatest performers from 1900 to 1950. The other outfielders were Ty Cobb, the late Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio.

More Trouble In Mudville In 1926, with a scandal threatening, Kenesaw Mountain Landis tried to force Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker to retire

At the end of the 1926 season the baseball world was shocked by the sudden resignations of two almost legendary player-managers—Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and Tris Speaker of the Cleveland Indians.

Speaker was considered the best outfielder in history. His lifetime batting average was .344, and at the age of 38 he was still going strong. Ty Cobb was considered to be the best baseball player who ever lived. For 23 years he was a terror to the game. He stole 892 bases. His lifetime batting average was .367. Cobb, too, was still going strong, so why the resignations?

Well, it all resulted from a charge made by a former pitcher, Hubert (Dutch) Leonard that in 1919, the year of theBlack Sox scandal, Leonard, Speaker, Cobb and Smokey Joe Wood ( Cleveland pitcher) had conspired to rig a game.

The four happened to meet, said Leonard, under the stands after the first game of a series in Detroit on Sept. 24, 1919. Cleveland had already clinched second place. Detroit was in a dogfight for third. There was a fair piece of change involved. One thing led to another and, Leonard said, it was agreed that the Cleveland team, since it had nothing to lose, would let the Tigers win the next game. Then it suddenly dawned on them that if they knew who was going to win they might just as well make some money out of it.

Cobb said he would send a guy named West [who knew how to get a bet down] over to us," Leonard said. "I was to put up $1,500 and, as I remember it, Cobb $2,000, Wood and Speaker $1,000 each. I had pitched that day and was through for the season, so I gave my check for $1,500 to Wood at the ball park and left that night for Independence, Mo."

Things seemed to go off without a hitch. Detroit jumped to a 4-0 lead in two innings and won easily 9-5. But Leonard didn't make much on the deal. His $1,500 grew to only $1,630 because, he was told, it was impossible to get a big bet down on the game.

This was the story that Leonard told Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis—a story that no one in the world would have believed. Except for one thing. Leonard had thoughtfully saved two letters, one written to him by Wood, the other by the great Cobb himself. Wood's letter read:

Dear Friend Dutch:
The only bet West could get up was $600 against $420 (10 to 7). Cobb did not get up a cent. He told us that and I believe him. Could have put some at 5 to 2 on Detroit, but did not, as that would make us put up $1,000 to win $400.

We won the $420. I gave West $30, leaving $390, or $130 for each" of us. Would not have cashed your check at all, but West thought he could get 10 to 7, and I was going to put it all up at those odds. We would have won $1,750 for the $2,500 if we could have placed it....

Let me hear from you, Dutch....
Joe Wood

Cobb wrote, in part, from Augusta, Ga. on Oct. 23, 1919:

Dear Dutch:
Well, old boy, guess you are out in California by this time and enjoying life.

Wood and myself are considerably disappointed in our business proposition, as we had $2,000 to put into it and the other side quoted us $1,400, and when we finally secured that much money it was about 2 o'clock and they refused to deal with us, as they had men in Chicago to take the matter up with and they had not time, so we fell down and of course we felt badly over it.

Everything was open to Wood and he can tell you about it when we get together. It was quite a responsibility and I don't care for it again, I assure you.

I thought the White Sox should have won [the Series], but am satisfied they were too confident. Well, old scout, drop me a line when you can.
Ty

It was not difficult for Landis to confirm the authenticity of the letters. Wood, for one, was quite willing to elaborate. "I told him [Leonard] I did not care to put up as much money as the $2,500 he suggested," Wood told the commissioner, "but a friend of mine, from Cleveland, said he was willing to take a third of it."

Despite such convincing evidence, Cobb and Speaker turned the air Day-Glo purple with denials. "I told Judge Landis, and I say now," Speaker said, "that I never bet a dime on a game and that I never had anything to do with a game being thrown or knew of a game being thrown." As proof, he offered the fact that he had made three hits in the game and scored two runs. Cobb charged that the whole thing was a case of blackmail on Leonard's part: "I'll stake my record on the diamond and off it against that of any ball player, manager, club president or evenJudge Landis. I 'm clean and have always been so.... I've told everything I know. I rest my case with the fans of the country. The only blame that can be attached to me is that I knew there was betting going on."

If Cobb expected that argument to work with Landis, he was naive. Only weeks before, the Judge had banned poor, drunken Shufflin' Phil Douglas for life because he suggested in a letter that he would leave his team—the Giants—so that Manager John McGraw would win fewer games. Landis' instincts were hardly in doubt. He wanted all four men out of the game. But he knew he had to tread softly. Coming so soon after the Black Sox scandal, a ban on two of the best-known players in the game could have been a disaster.

The development of the case shows how frightened baseball was. In his report Landis said, "This investigation was instituted by the Detroit club of the American League. They had been dealing with Leonard over his claims for money and it was in these conversations that Leonard made the charges against Cobb, Speaker and Wood." It was a long time before Landis was called in, because the American League didn't want him. It did not want any noise. Just as Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, did not want the Black Sox convicted (none of them were), the American League did not now want to mar the reputations of two great heroes. The letters were strong stuff, however, and there was no keeping Landis out. The problem now was to minimize the noise.

Landis' solution was to allow Cobb and Speaker to resign their jobs "for personal reasons." Since Wood, by now a baseball coach at Yale, and Leonard were already out of the game, that would solve the problem in the quietest way. Indeed, when he made his deadpan statement to the press, Landis said that since all four were out of baseball there was no need for him to take any action.

This bland solution, however, failed to account for Cobb's arrogant personality. If Ty was going down he would take baseball with him. He threatened a suit. He threatened to reveal other skulduggery. "I could say a few things about fake turnstile counts and juggled ticket-counting practices by major league owners," he said later. Baseball was frightened of the courts. Its reserve clause was always open to legal challenge. The evidence against the players was good, but it might not stand up in court. There wasn't much Landis could do. On Jan. 27, 1927 he capitulated.

"These players had not been, nor are they now, found guilty of fixing a ball game," Landis announced. "By no decent system of justice could such a finding be made. Therefore, they were not placed on the ineligible list."

In his autobiography Cobb wrote later: "I'll reveal something here never before told. That famous Landis 'verdict' was dictated to him by attorneys representing Speaker and myself." Whatever its authorship, the verdict made it possible for Cobb to play baseball with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1927 for $70,000. Speaker went with the Washington Senators. Cobb played two years and was joined by Speaker in Philly in 1928. Cobb hit .357 and .323 those last two years. Speaker finished with .327 and .267. No matter what is said about Cobb and Speaker no one will ever say they couldn't hit.

 

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