Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hall of Fame Center Fielder Tris Speaker was Ambidextrous

Tristram E. Speaker 

Nicknames: "Spoke" and "The Grey Eagle"
Born: April 4, 1888 in Hubbard, Texas
Died: Dec 8, 1958 (Aged 70)

High School: Hubbard HS, Hubbard, TX
College: Polytechnic College, Fort Worth, TX 
(The college became Texas Wesleyan University)

Teams: Boston Red Sox (1907-1915), Cleveland Indians (1916-1926), Washington Senators (1927), Philadelphia A's (1928)

Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 1937 (165/201 ballots).
Tris Speaker - Hall of Fame

Position: CF
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 193 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left, ambidextrous

Hall of Fame centerfielder, Tris Speaker, played pro ball until he was 40 years old. He tallied 3,514 hits over 22 years. Speaker's specialty was hitting doubles -- he led the league eight times and still holds the career mark with 793. He only struck out 220 times in his entire career. Speaker finished his career with a .345 Batting Average -- about the same as Ted Williams -- placing him in the All-Time Batters Top 10. Plus, Tris Speaker was ambidextrous!

As one of baseball's most successful player-managers, Speaker guided Cleveland to a world championship in 1920.

Tris Speaker is still considered by many people to be the greatest defensive centerfielder in baseball history. 
Speaker's exceptional speed and uncanny ability to track fly balls enabled him to play an extraordinarily shallow center field.  He typically positioned himself a mere 40 or 50 feet behind second base, allowing him to frequently convert line drive singles into outs, throw out runners attempting to advance one base, and occasionally even serve as the middle man on double plays. (The Baseball Page)

Tris Speaker: The Rough-And-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend

 By Timothy M. Gay

Like many youngsters in Hill County, Speaker fancied himself a rodeo cowboy. Later in life he became such a skilled horse-and-rope performer that Will Rogers prevailed upon him to join the Oklahoma's traveling show whenever Spoke's schedule would allow.

Tris Speaker riding an alligator at spring training
in Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa 1912.
Speaker was a college man and a cowboy.
(source: Red Sox Century)
Right around the time his father died, Speaker, a natural right-hander, was thrown from a buckin' bronc and suffered multiple fractures of his lower arm and a break of his upper right arm and collarbone. He refused to let the injury disrupt his ballplaying. Undaunted, he taught himself to throw and bat left-handed, which he continued to do for the remainder of his career. "I feared my days in athletics were over," Speaker wrote in a bylined article for the Cleveland Press in May 1916. "Even before the fractures healed, I was out practicing to peg with the left hand. I found I could throw left-handed even more accurately that I could with my right. Then I got back my job with the [Hubbard] team."

Speaker became essentially ambidextrous -- indeed, he was that rare human being who could write legibly with both hands -- a skill that later contributed to his genius in the outfield, where he stunned onlookers by making many an off-balance one-haded grab, some with his glove, some with his bare hand. He taught himself to throw so well with his left hand that he became a pretty fair country pitcher, developing a mean curve ball. Over time, even Speaker's throws from the outfield had a natural left-to-right break in them.

At Hubbard High School, Speaker starred in both football and baseball, graduating in 1904.

Tris Speaker Bio - The Baseball Page

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