From baseball historian Alexander (Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era, 2001, etc.), a detailed history of one of baseball’s greatest centerfielders.
Although Tris Speaker (aka “Spoke” and “the Grey Eagle”) may not be known to many sports fans, he was for years one of the best players in the game. In a career that spanned more than 20 years, Speaker was one of the game’s most consistent producers, eventually becoming baseball’s career leader in doubles, and was in the top ten in career hits, triples and runs, eventually retiring after the 1928 season with an incredible .345 lifetime batting average (fifth best all-time). Speaker began his career with the Boston Red Sox, where he earned a reputation as a defensive standout with a strong arm and tremendous speed, an asset he also used to great advantage on the base paths. While never a prodigious power threat, Speaker was one of the best contact hitters in baseball. He won a batting title in 1916, briefly breaking Ty Cobb’s stranglehold on the honor. His accomplishments weren’t limited to individual accolades, however. Speaker won two World Series championships with the Red Sox before concerns about his age and salary led the team to sell his contract to the Cleveland Indians, where Speaker won another World Series title five years later. Despite his athletic success, Speaker was not a tremendously interesting figure. Alexander attempts to explain this away by saying that “the private lives of ballplayers in his day generally remained private,” a sentiment that fails to account for the fascinating private lives of Speaker’s contemporaries Cobb and Babe Ruth. Although Speaker traveled with the notorious Cobb on off-season hunting trips, and faced controversy when he was forced to retire as a manager after being accused of fixing a game, Alexander is less interested in these episodes than in reciting the individual games and statistics that cemented Speaker’s reputation as a member of the inaugural class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
A comprehensive biography of one of the more accomplished, if unexciting, players in major-league history.