Tris Speaker


Tris Speaker

The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend

Timothy M. Gay

346 pages
17 photographs, index


April 2023


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eBook (EPUB)
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March 2023


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eBook (PDF)
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January 2006


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About the Book

A three-time World Series winner and an early inductee into the Hall of Fame, lauded by Babe Ruth as the finest defensive outfielder he ever saw, and described as “perfection on the field” by the great Grantland Rice, Tris Speaker enjoys the peculiar distinction of being one of the least-known legends of baseball history. Tris Speaker: The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend is the first book to tell the full story of Speaker’s turbulent life and to document in sharp detail the grit and glory of his pivotal role in baseball’s dead-ball era.

Playing for the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians in the early part of the twentieth century, Tris “Spoke” Speaker put up numbers that amaze us even today: his record for career doubles—792—may never be approached, let alone broken. Timothy M. Gay gives a rousing account of some of the best baseball ever played—and of some of the darkest moments that ever tainted a game and hastened the end of a career. Gay’s four years of research on Speaker unearthed a document that suggests that cheating induced by gambling was far more widespread in early baseball than officials have acknowledged. Gay’s book captures the bygone spirit of the big leagues’ rough-and-tumble early years and restores one of baseball’s true greats—and a truly larger-than-life personality—to his rightful place in the American sports pantheon.

Author Bio

Timothy M. Gay is a writer based in northern Virginia. His essays and articles on the Civil War, politics, baseball, college basketball, and golf have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, and other publications. He is the author of several books including Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson.


“Gay, who spent four years researching Speaker’s life, has crafted a rugged, no-holds-barred look at a player who encompassed all the complex magic of early twentieth century baseball. Speaker’s story exemplifies why baseball holds such an important place in the American imagination. It is our story—a story of sin and expiation, of loyalty and love, of courage and dignity. This should be required reading for any serious baseball fan.”—Sport Literature Association

“There are many passages where Gay captures the spirit of the Gray Eagle as he describes a moment of Speaker in action. These are effective because they are done selectively; this book is anything but prone to monotonous game by game summaries.”—The Inside Game

“[A] richly detailed biography, the first on Speaker to succeed in situating him within an epoch of great promise and of great shame. . . . The ultimate value of this biography resides in its portrayal of personal redemption. . . . This warts-and-all account is true to a rugged individualist and offers insights to a general public often dismayed by the lack of values found in the sports world.”—Library Journal

“Carefully researched and documented, engagingly written, and very illuminating. . . . Gay has filled a serious gap in baseball history and his effort compares favorably with Charles Alexander’s acclaimed biographies of John McGraw and Ty Cobb.”—Booklist

“Tristam ‘Spoke’ Speaker sits, statistically, alongside baseball’s greatest sluggers and fielders, but his story and name have largely been forgotten. . . . Gay has insured the righting of history with this biography. A worthwhile read for any sports fan.”—Publishers Weekly

“An eye-opening look at baseball’s now seemingly prehistoric ‘dead ball’ era, which also was rife with gambling scandals, grudges, amoral team owners and spring training in Hot Springs, Ark., where training regimens included mandatory hikes through the woods.”—Ed Bark, Dallas Morning News

“Fans of the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians will likely enjoy this book. . . . Timothy Gay’s thoughtful biography lays bare the ugly fact that many players were often involved in sketchy gambling arrangements. . . . Speaker is now largely forgotten, and this well-told story bridges the gap between baseball before World War I and its more modern form.”—Mark E. Hayes, The Miami Herald

“Timothy Gay has accomplished something special with this book, recovering a great player and a hallowed time from the deep well of nostalgia and bringing them back to life, not as we wished them to be, but as they really were.”—David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: The Life of Vince Lombardi

“Tris Speaker was the prototype for Willie Mays as the best center fielder and most complete ballplayer of the dead ball era. He was also a complex and cerebral figure who straddled two centuries while growing up on horseback in Texas and helping establish the cult of the American sports superstar. Timothy Gay has crafted an enjoyable and important book about one of the most dominant yet underrated players in baseball history.”—Richard A. Johnson, coauthor, Red Sox Century and The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodger Baseball

“Tim Gay has written a terrific book about a fascinating ball player—a .344+ lifetime hitter who still holds the major league record for unassisted double plays by a centerfielder. Every sports fan ought to read it.”—David Owen, author of My Usual Game

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. October 1912
2. Texas Frontier Child
3. Texas Leaguer
4. Boston, 1908
5. Early Years in Boston
6. Championship Season
7. Last Years in Boston
8. Early Years in Cleveland
9.World Champion Manager
10. Scandal
11. Banished Hero
12. Twilight

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