Jesse Doak Roberts was a prominent figure in Texas baseball. He was the two-time president of the Texas League (1904-’06 and 1920-’29), and had an ownership stake and managed clubs in the Texas and North Texas Leagues.
In 1911, the then owner of the Houston Buffaloes gave The Houston Chronicle his version of how Tris Speaker ended up in Boston:
“I want to tell you the story of the force that endeavored to act against the rise of Speaker—a force that did not succeed, but which cost me $700 in purchase money, and it was a knocking umpire.
“When Speaker was going at his best in his last year in this league (1906), I had made arrangements with Charlie Comiskey to purchase Tris for $1500…the deal was almost closed.”
Roberts said he was approached “by a (Texas) League umpire,” during a late-season game in Austin who, he claimed, demanded “a commission” for recommending Speaker:
“I told him that I had never asked an umpire to sell one of my players and would not—that I would prefer that they would not recommend any of them…I must have angered him, for he knocked the greatest Lone Star player to Comiskey (later) I got a draft from the Old Roman: ‘We can’t use Speaker.’
“(George) Huff, then scouting for Boston, was in town. He came around to see me and asked what I would take for Speaker. I told him $1500. He said that was too much for a class C player—that he would give me $500.”
Roberts said he then tried to sell Speaker to the St. Louis Browns (the biography “Tris Speaker: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend” said Roberts had attempted to sell Speaker to St. Louis earlier that season)
“I refused to accept (Huff’s) offer and wired (Jimmy) McAleer at St. Louis. I told him I would sell him Speaker under a positive guarantee that he would make good.”
Roberts said McAleer never responded and he “finally made an agreement to sell the boy for $800 cash,’ to Boston.
“A knocking umpire had attempted to keep Speaker back and had kept us from getting the difference between Comiskey’s price if $1500 and Boston’s of $800. And the White Sox lost a great player.”
Roberts never named the umpire who he said cost him $700.