Tris Speaker was the best player on the Boston Red Sox team of 1912. In fact, in 1912, he was the best player in the league. In fact, Tristram E Speaker was Fenway Park’s first full-blown superstar! In fact, Tris Speaker was a better all around baseball player than Ty Cobb! That’s right, it may seem blasphemous to say that being that Cobb has the best lifetime batting average in history, but Speaker was not that far behind him offensively and defensively Speaker had no match. There are some who will argue his match has yet to be met as a defensive centerfielder!
Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb.
Born on the plains of Texas, he had three uncles who fought with the Confederacy in the Civil War. He taught himself to throw left-handed after twice breaking his right arm, being bucked off a steer. He hunted, he fished and is said to have taught Will Rogers how to throw a lariat.
After failed attempts to join a professional team, he paid his way to the Red Sox spring training site in Little Rock Arkansas in 1908 and in 1909 he became their regular centerfielder.
Speaker hit .309 as a rookie and did not dip below .300 until 1919 when he hit .296. The 1910 season brought “Duffy” Lewis and Harry Hooper into the Red Sox outfield and for six seasons the three of them formed what some still call the greatest defensive outfield in history; anchored by Tris Speaker in center!
Lewis, Speaker and Hooper.
In 1912 he led the Red Sox to 105 wins, the American League pennant, and in the World Series deciding game, he tied it in the bottom of the tenth with a two out base hit. He received the “Chalmers Award” as the American League MVP.
After leading the Red Sox to another World Series title in 1915, he was traded to Cleveland just before the start of the 1916 season. A victim of a rift in the clubhouse that believe it or not, centered on religious differences; there was a catholic faction and a protestant faction. Owner Joseph Lannin was an Irish catholic and Tris was Cleveland bound.
He went on to secure his place in history as a player and player-manger with the Indians. As an outfielder he led the league in putouts seven times and assists three times. He still holds the record for outfield assists in a season with 35, he did it twice. And six times he led the league in double plays. At the plate; his .345 lifetime batting average is sixth all time, his 3,514 hits is fifth all time, his .428 on base percentage is 11th all time and his 792 career doubles tops the list! And if all that wasn’t enough, he was the first manager to platoon his lineup!
In 1937 he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame but his Red Sox roots are not forgotten as he was a charter member of their hall of fame in 1995 and today his banner waves in honor on Van Ness Street outside of Fenway Park, 100 years after he was the MVP!
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, winter 1911.