Tris Speaker was recognized as one of the greatest fielding Center Fielders of all time when I was a kid. He and Willie Mays were generally lumped 1 and 2. A lot of writers/experts when they made an all-defensive team would put Mays in Center and move Speaker to left to keep him on the team. Another outfielder has joined their group, or a lot of people say pass their group named Andruw Jones. This unfortunately has diminished Tris Speaker in our memory. I guess it is hard to have three great fielders in one position. So now we see Speaker mentioned as a contemporary of Cobb, who couldn’t hit as well but fielded better.
Speaker use to play outfield closer to the infield than most centerfielders. Thus, he must have been good at going back on balls hit over his head. He reminds me of a great fielding centerfielder of my childhood Paul Blair. He also played in closer to the infield because more balls were hit there then in the deep part of the outfield. However, Blair was fast enough and good enough to get to balls hit over his head. I also have Blair as my 72nd greatest outfielder as he wasn’t a real good hitter.
Speaker was supposedly nicer that Cobb but was very outspoken. He was Babe Ruth’s teammate when he first came in the majors. Babe said Speaker was a leader and was upset when Boston traded after Boston won the World Series in 1915. Boston still put enough together to win the World Series again in 1916 and 1918 ever though they weren’t as strong without Speaker. Speaker did get a bit of revenge as he was the player manager in 1920 when he took the Cleveland Indians to a World Series Victory.
In the post season Tris Speaker was very consistent and he was very good. The best news was his team won all three World Series. In all three World Series he hit about .300, with 3 or 4 walks, he had at least one triple and one double in each World Series except 1915 where he didn’t hit a double.
When I was a kid, I liked Tris Speaker a lot as I contrasted him with Ty Cobb. However, as an adult I found out Speaker had his issues also. Speaker supposedly joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. They were supposed to be toned down during this time and it was supposedly only for a short time, if he did join. Ty Cobb received the same accusations. If true not one of their brighter moments. Speaking of Ty Cobb, Speaker was also involved in a betting scandal with him. One of them was supposed to throw a game so they could get second and since they knew who won they decided to put a bet on the game. They went to meet baseball commissioner Judge Landis who was extremely strict on gambling and had thrown a lot of players out of baseball for life. He didn’t penalize Cobb or Speaker at all. Some said that Landis didn’t throw them out as they were star players. Apparently, their accuser didn’t Dutch Leonard didn’t show up which makes the reason for having the meeting kind of obsolete. So, this has me think less of Tris Speaker as a man, but he was one hell of a player.