Howdy folks! I’m back, and you know what that means – more funny baseball names.
Tristram E. Speaker (1888-1958) is kind of legit. Although born without a middle name, he adopted the “E.” after Red Sox management insisted he have a middle initial. Why, I don’t know.
But I do know that Tris “Spoke” Speaker (also known as “The Grey Eagle”) is one of baseball’s all-time great center fielders. As if having a career batting average of .345 with 3,514 hits (including a still-standing major league record 792 doubles) wasn’t enough, Spoke was quite the defender, amassing still-standing career records for assists, double plays, and unassisted double plays by an outfielder. How an outfielder would plausibly record an unassisted double play is beyond me (I can’t recall ever seeing it done – he must have been playing pretty shallow), but Tristram apparently was quite proficient at it. The Grey Eagle was also a three-time World Series champion – two of which came while he was a player-manager for the Cleveland Indians.
The Hall of Famer was also proficient at injuring his arms… As a youngster, Speaker became left-handed after breaking his right arm after falling off a horse. But later, to even things out, Spoke severely injured his left arm while playing football. The injury was so bad that surgeons thought it should be amputated, but Spoke refused, and his arm recovered. Good move Grey Eagle, good move. That left arm sure came in handy.
However, to add injury to injury, Spoke again injured the left arm in 1937, when he fell 16 feet after the railing of his porch collapsed while he was trying to repair a flower box. The Grey Eagle sustained a skull fracture and a broken left arm in the fall. He would eventually recover.
When Spoke died, fellow Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie said, “He was one of the greatest fellows I ever knew, both as a baseball player and as a gentleman.” Even Tyrus Raymond Cobb had nice things to say about him.
But it is Ogden Nash who gets the closing word here about the incredible Tris Speaker:
S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, “I surrender.”