“He Called me the Freshest Busher he had Ever met”

15 Apr

When Tris Speaker died in 1958 it was noted that he earned $50 a month with the Cleburne Railroaders in the Texas League in 1906.

Speaker

Jesse “Doak” Roberts signed Speaker to that first contract and disputed the amount. 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.

Before his death in 1929, Roberts often told his version of Speaker’s signing, as recounted by The Associated Press:

“Roberts had driven in his bright new buggy to the field where Speaker was playing a semi-pro game. He called Tris over to talk contract and Speaker, wearing baseball spikes climbed onto the hub of the buggy. Roberts noted he had scraped some of the paint off, so he signed Speaker to a contract of $40 a month. Roberts had meant to make it $50 but held back the $10 to repair the buggy.”

The year before Speaker’s death, he told Jim Schlemmer—the sports editor of The Akron Beacon Journal—how he started the season in Cleburne and ended it in the outfield, while at spring training with Indians in Tucson:

“I was a good pitcher in my first six, although I didn’t win any. In one of these I allowed only two hits but lost because Benny Shelton, our player-manager, failed to cover first base on a grounder.

“I bawled him out and he called me the freshest busher he had ever met.”

Shelton took his revenge during Speaker’s seventh loss—in Speaker’s telling he had given up “22 doubles and 22 runs” to the Fort Worth Panthers:

“Shelton kept yelling ‘Stay in there, kid, they haven’t got a single off you yet.’”

Speaker always said he was 0-7 with Cleburne, but was actually 2-7.

Four years before his death, he told a similar version of the story is Ed Sullivan’s “Little Old New York” column in The New York Daily News which included how he ended up in the outfield:

“In the next game, Cleburne’s right fielder Dude Ransom, suffered a broken cheekbone, so Speaker became an outfielder.”

Julian “Dude” Ransom was struck in the face by a pitch during a game with the Waco Navigators on May 22, 1906 by pitcher Carl Hiatt, which, according to The Houston Post, “shattered and caved in his upper jawbone.”

Ransom’s professional career ended that day, but he continued to play and held ownership stakes in several teams based in Corsicana, Texas—including the one of the greatest team names in baseball history, the 1922 and ‘23 Corsicana Gumbo Busters– and became a prominent businessman in the town.

Ad for Ransom’s 1923 Corsicana Gumbo Busters home opener in the Texas Association versus th Marlin Bathers

Ransom earned his nickname because “He was always a neat dresser,” was for many years the “unofficial stout” for any clubs Roberts owned in Texas. The Post said:

“In Doak’s opinion, Ransom would have proved one of the greatest outfielders in the game but for the accident at Waco.”

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