Masterpieces and Uncommon Commons XXXVII
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" . . . there can be no doubt that in Speaker (the Red Sox) possessed the greatest fielding outfielder in the game . . . Furthermore, Speaker was almost as much dreaded for his batting and baserunning as he was for his marvelous fielding gifts."
- Baseball Magazine, 1916
Speaker’s legendary Turkey Red cabinet is indeed a thing of rare beauty. Among the more elusive Turkey Red Hall of Famers, this outstanding T3 grades EX 5 only because of corner scuffing. Without the scuffs at the corners, this Speaker easily grades a NM or higher.
In the days before Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb were quite possibly the most famous major league baseball players. People used to argue about which one of them was better, much in the way that people later would argue about whether Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays was better. Speaker's Hall of Fame plaque, while not settling the issue, calls him the "greatest center fielder of his day".
Speaker is the all-time leader in doubles with 792, leading the league eight times and finishing second three other times. He is # 5 all-time in hits with 3514, # 6 all-time in batting average, # 6 all-time in triples, # 9 all-time in Runs Created, # 11 all-time in Runs Scored (in spite of playing during a time when runs were scarce), and # 12 all-time in on-base percentage.
He is one of only two players to ever hit 50 doubles and steal 50 bases in the same season.
Observers thought him an excellent center fielder. He was fast enough that he would play shallow and if a ball was hit over his head, he could usually run back fast enough to corral it.
Unfortunately, the 1910s were a time when owners were not free with money, and Red Sox management proposed to cut Speaker's salary after the 1915 World Series because Speaker had hit only .322 during the regular season (it was still the fourth-best batting average in the league).
Speaker refused to sign the Red Sox offer and was traded to the Indians. He had played with Babe Ruth in Ruth's first full season in 1915, and because of the trade Speaker would miss Ruth's best years as a pitcher and two more World Series titles for the Bostonians. Speaker would, however, be joined on the 1920 World Series champion Indians by former Boston teammates Smoky Joe Wood, who had converted at that point from pitcher to outfielder, and Larry Gardner.
Despite being one of the greatest of all time, few cards of Speaker exist. And perhaps none portray the lifetime .344 hitter better than this Turkey Red. We suggest you not let it get away.
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