Tag Archives: Tris Speaker

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

cy

Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

“The Most Graceful Player of All-Time”

25 Jun

Writing in The New York Herald Tribune in 1952, Grantland Rice, in his 51st year covering baseball, set out to choose his all-time “Most graceful” team.

The idea was borne out of a conversation with Charles Ambrose Hughes, who covered baseball for several Chicago and Detroit papers during a career that started one year after Rice’s–Hughes left the newspaper business to serve as secretary of the Detroit Athletic Club, he published the club’s magazine and led the group of investors who founded the National Hockey League Detroit Cougers in 1926–the team became the Red Wings in 1932 .

hughes

Hughes

In an earlier column that year, Rice quoted Hughes on Napoleon Lajoie:

“Big Nap, or Larry, was the most graceful player of all time.  Every move he made was a poem in action.  He was even more graceful in the infield than Joe DiMaggio was in the outfield—and that means something.”

Rice agreed:

“I was another Lajoie admirer.  I never say Larry make a hard play.  Every play looked easy—just as it so often looked to DiMaggio, (Tris) Speaker, and Terry Moore.”

The comments apparently caused a spike in the volume of mail Rice received, and he said in a later column:

“Old timers in baseball still have the keener memories.  This thought developed in the number of letters received by admirers of Napoleon Lajoie, the Woonsocket cab driver…they were writing of baseball’s most graceful player. But almost as many modern fans stuck with Joe DiMaggio.”

rice.jpg

Rice

Rice said the issue caused him to think about “grace or rhythm” among players:

“(It) does not mean everything.  Honus Wagner looked like a huge land crab scooping up everything in sight.  He had a peculiar grace of his own, but it was hardly grace as we know it. Yet he was the game’s greatest shortstop”

Rice based his team on “the beauty of movement,” on the field:

Rice’s team:

Pitchers—Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Bugs Raymond

Catcher—Johnny Kling

First Base—Hal Chase

Second Base—Lajoie

Third Base—Jimmy Collins

Shortstop—Phil Rizzuto, Marty Marion

Outfield—Speaker, DiMaggio, Moore

Rice said:

“(T)his is the team we’d rather see play.  This doesn’t mean the greatest team in baseball…it leaves out many a star.

“But for beauty of action this team would be a standout…Looking back I can see now some of the plays Lajoie, Chase, DiMaggio, Speaker, Collins, Moore, Rizzuto, and Marion made without effort.”

Rice said Kling was not as good as Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey, “But he was a fine, smooth workman—smart and keen.”

He said he chose Raymond as one of the pitchers because of John McGraw:

“In an argument far away and long ago, I named Walter Johnson.  McGraw picked Raymond.

“’Raymond has the finest pitching motion I ever say,’ he said.  ‘It is perfect motion from start to finish—no wasted effort anywhere.”

bugspix

Bugs

Rice reiterated that the  “Woonsocket cab driver” was the most graceful of the graceful:

“The all-time top was Lajoie.  Here was the final word in grace, in the field or with a bat.  After Lajoie the next two selections belong to Hal Chase and Joe DiMaggio.  Speaker isn’t too far away.”

Rice concluded:

“Gracefulness does not mean greatness.  It means Jim Corbett in boxing, Hobey Baker in hockey, Bobby Jones in golf, Red Grange in football, Lajoie in baseball, (Paavo) Nurmi in running, It means (Eddie) Arcaro in the saddle. It means smoothness, ease, lack of effort where sensational plays are reduced to normal efforts.”

One Minute Talk: Bill Carrigan

25 Oct

Bill Carrigan, on the verge of leading the Boston Red Sox to a second straight World Championship, had an unusual nominee for the best clutch hitter in baseball:

Carrigan, right

Bill Carrigan, (right)

“With all due respect to (Ty) Cobb, (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and all the other sluggers, I would rather see Dick Hoblitzell up there with men on the bases than anybody else in the country.  He almost always hits the ball hard and on a line, and while he doesn’t get them all safe by a long shot, his record for advancing base runners is a wonder.

“You can feel reasonably sure, with Dick up there, that he will not strike out, anyhow.  He seems to have a happy faculty of making many safeties with men on bases than at any other time, which is something I can’t say for a lot of the fellows who are in the front rank every year.

Hoblitzell

Hoblitzell

Jack Barry is another fellow who is more dangerous in the pinches.  He isn’t a heavy hitter, but one of the most valuable.”

Hoblitzell hit .259 for the Red Sox in 1916, striking out 28 times in 489 at bats, and driving in 39 runs for the champions.

One Minute Talk: Tris Speaker II

24 Oct

Tris Speaker, on his way to his only batting title, was the only player who rated two “minutes” in the series in the syndicate “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers” series.  In this one he takes inspiration from an operatic diva:

“I was reading about Mary Garden the other day and it seems she is keeping her weight down to 124 pounds—says she’ll never weigh more than 124 ½.  Well, if Mary can stay within a half pound limit just by singing. I figure I ought to be able to by playing baseball.

 

Mary Garden

Mary Garden

“That’s my principal thought every day—to keep my weight within eight ounces of where it is.  I eat only two meals a day—breakfast and dinner and am sticking right at the 182-pound mark.”

Speaker

Speaker

Most sources list Speaker’s weight at 193

One Minute Talk: Joe Jackson

12 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox, on his way to hitting .341—third in the American League behind Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb—had some advice for pitchers about saving their arms:

joejack

Jackson

“If you want to put your arm on the blink just start fooling with the fadeaway ball.

“I’ve had one experience and it cured me. After pitching four or five fadeaways I developed a kink in my elbow and decided to quit experimenting.

“Some fellows have studied the thing and got it down to a fine art. They tell me it doesn’t affect their arms, but if they pitched it as steadily as some fellows throw the spitter they wouldn’t last long in any league.”

Lost Pictures–Ty Cobb’s “Outburst of Historic Art”

30 Sep

After the 1916 season, Ty Cobb spent four weeks on Long Island shooting the first feature film starring a major league ballplayer.

The story for “Somewhere in Georgia” was written by Grantland Rice, then of The New York Tribune.

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Ty Cobb and leading lady Elsie MacLeod

Rice said of the film:

“For the matter of twelve years Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the first citizen of Georgia, has proved that when it comes to facing pitchers he has no rival…It may have been that facing such pitchers as (Ed) Walsh, (Walter) Johnson, (Babe) Ruth and others has acclimated Ty to facing anything under the sun, even a moving picture camera.  At any rate, when Director George Ridgewell, of the Sunbeam Motion Picture Company, lined Ty up in various attitudes before the camera he was astounded at the way the star ballplayer handled the job.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“These paragraphs should be enough to break the news gently that Cobb, wearying of competition with (Tris) Speaker, (Joe) Jackson and (Eddie) Collins through so many years, has decided to go out and give battle to Douglas Fairbanks and Francis X. Bushman.  Not for any extended campaign, but for just one outburst of historic art.”

Director George Ridgeway said of his star:

“The most noticeable thing about Cobb’s work was this:  I’ve never had to tell him more than once what I wanted done.  I had an idea that I would have to take half my time drilling him for various scenes in regard to expression and position. But, on the contrary, he seemed to have an advance hunch as to what was wanted, and the pictures will show that as a movie star Ty is something more than a .380 hitter.  In addition to this, he is a horse plus and elephant for work. Twelve hours a day is nothing to him, and when the rest of us are pretty well worn out Cobb is ready for the next scene. I believe the fellow could work twenty hours a day for a week and still be ready for overtime.”

Rice noted that Cobb balked at just thing during the filming:

“Ty was willing enough to engage in mortal combat with anywhere from two to ten husky villains.  He was willing enough ti dive headfirst for the plate or to jump through a window, but when it came to one of our best known pastimes, lovemaking, he balked with decided abruptness.

“Despite the attractiveness and personal appeal of the heroine, Miss Elsie MacLeod, Ty was keen enough to figure ahead, not what the spectators might think of it, but what Mrs. Tyrus Raymond Cobb of Augusta think. The love making episode, therefore, while more or less thickly interspersed, had to be handled in precisely the proper way to meet Ty’s bashful approval”

The "bashful" star

The “bashful” star

The New York Tribune claimed that “More than 100 motion picture scenarios” were presented to Cobb before he agreed to appear in Rice’s.  The paper said, “(H)e would not, he emphatically stated, appear in anything that was not compatible with both his dignity and his standing in the baseball world.”

The Ty Cobb character in “Somewhere in Georgia” is a bank clerk who plays ball for the local baseball team—he, along with the bank’s cashier are vying for the love of  the banker’s daughter.  Cobb is scouted and offered a contract by the Detroit Tigers but the banker’s daughter tells him he must choose between baseball and her.  At the same time, the cashier, Cobb’s rival for the banker’s daughter, bets against the home team and plots to have Cobb kidnapped by “a gang of thugs.”

Cobb accosted by thugs

Cobb accosted by thugs

After being held hostage in a cabin, Cobb escapes with the help of “a local farm boy,” and:

”Commandeering a mule team, Ty succeeds in reaching home just in time to make a spectacular play and save the game for his team.  He then turns the tables on the cashier, wins the girl and winds things up in a manner appealing to ball fans and picture fans alike.”

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Cobb escaping with the aid of a local farm boy.

Billed in advertisements as “A thrilling drama of love and baseball in six innings,” no prints of the six-reel film survive, but Cobb received better reviews than most of his brethren who attempted a film career.

After the film’s release in 1917, The Tribune said:

“(A)s an actor Ty Cobb is a huge success.  In fact, he is so good that he shows all the others (in the cast) up.”

When the film premiered at the Detroit Opera House in August of 1917 The Detroit Free Press said:

Ad for the film in Detroit

Ad for the film in Detroit

“(The film) is not only a most interesting baseball picture, but it gives views of “The Georgia Peach” that one does not see at Navin Filed…One seldom gets a chance to take a peep at Ty in civilian clothes and he shows himself to be as much at home in this story of love and romance into which a few baseball surroundings have been woven as he is on the diamond.  He makes a pleasing film hero, wooing and winning the bank president’s daughter and performing other exploits that one would expect from Douglas Fairbanks and his like.”

One Minute Talk: Tris Speaker

23 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Tris Speaker:

“There has been a disposition on the part of some people to criticize the ballplayer for getting all the salary he could shake down from his employer.  In a few cases a ballplayer may have done this, if so, his conduct was but a duplicate of what is commonly done in other lines of business.

“A clerk in a dry goods store doesn’t see anything improper in asking for a raise if he believes he has earned it, and if his employers for some reason are unable to pay him he believes he is justified going elsewhere.

“As a matter of fact, the ballplayer seldom drives a hard bargain even when he has the opportunity.”

Speaker

Speaker

Speaker appears to have not taken his own advice about driving “a hard bargain.  According to the 1918 “Reach Baseball Guide,” Speaker took a pay cut—from $17,500 to $15,000—after he was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians for two players and $55,000 before the 1916 season.  And, according to the same source, despite hitting a league-leading .386 in 1916, Speaker continued to earn $15,000 a year through 1918.

One Minute Talk: Steve O’Neill

21 Sep

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Steve O’Neill, Cleveland Indians catcher, made the case for the hitting prowess of one of his teammates:

Steve O'Neill

Steve O’Neill

Tris Speaker is better at the hit and run play than either (Joe) Jackson or (Ty) Cobb, for he is like (Napoleon) Lajoie—he can reach out and crack a pitch away on the other side of the plate if it will help the runner.  He does not have to wait for a fast one, a floater or a curve.

“I would sum it up this way; Cobb is the fellow who is most apt to be safe on first on a ball hit anywhere; Jackson hits the ball more savagely, while Speaker is the best all-around player of the lot and this season I think, you will find him on top in the race for batting honors.”

Speaker

Speaker

O’Neill predicted correctly.  Speaker led the American League with a .386 average, Cobb finished second at .371 and Jackson had the league’s third-best average, .341.

“One of the Most Mysterious Cases in Baseball”

16 May

Before the 1925 season, Billy Evans, the American League umpire and syndicated columnist, said St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Allan Sothoron was:

“One of the most mysterious cases in baseball.”

sothoron

Evans said the 32-year-old who had spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues:

“Here was a pitcher who was recognized as one of the richest prizes ever found.  He had a fast ball, a spitter, a curve, a change of pace; control—well, just everything that a great pitcher requires.

“And Sothoron lived as a pitching star, but not for long.  A weakness was discovered.  Show the opposing side a weak spot and it plays through it.

“Sothoron, with an iron arm are rare intelligence, could not control his throw once he fielded the ball.”

During five seasons in the American League from 1917-1921, Sothoron made 50 errors in just 356 total chances.

“On bunts or easy taps hit straight to him he lost his bearings.  With one swish of his arm, he threw—threw in any direction which usually was yards away from his fielder.

“To first, second, third base or the plate, Sothoron aimed and fired.

“And eventually, he threw himself out of the American League.”

Evans said Indians manager Tris Speaker “thought he could correct the fault’ when he acquired Sothoron in June of 1921, and for a time he thought he had–Speaker told The Cleveland News when he acquired the pitcher that the problem was Sothoron “throwing flat-footed.”

Tris Speaker

Tris Speaker

He won 12 and lost four, with a 3.24 ERA for Cleveland—although he did commit four errors in just 36 total chances.  But in 1922, Speaker “gave up the job” after Sothoron appeared in just six games—he was 1-3 with a 6.39 ERA and made one error on six chances.

Evans said after he was released by Boston:

“Sothoron, disgusted with himself, retired from baseball.”

He returned to baseball in 1923, with the Louisville Colonels in the American Association.  Despite a 6-9 5.92 season with the Colonels, Evans said:

“The scene changes.  Branch Rickey, as manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1914, discovered Sothoron.  And he refused to believe that such an evil could not be corrected.  He took a chance and purchased Sothoron for his St. Louis Cardinals in 1924.”

Branch Rickey

Branch Rickey

And the pitcher responded:

“The story is not closed.  Sothoron was one of the few pitchers with a perfect fielding average in the National league last season.”

He was 10-16 with a 3.57 ERA, but handled 37 total chances without an error, which included “making 35 perfect throws in aiding in the retirement of batters or runners.”

Evans attributed Sothoron’s fielding to:

“Branch Rickey’s system of training… (Rickey) saw that Sothoron…simply scooped in the ball and made his throw.  He did not steady himself.

“For days and weeks, Sothoron was put through such a course—fielding a ball, pausing, steadying himself, then following through with the throw.”

Evans suggested that “after 10 years of drifting” Sothoron had “finally found himself.”

It did not last.

He pitched for the Cardinals for two more seasons, he was 13-13 with a 4.09 ERA, and he committed five errors in just 31 chances.   He finished his career with an .871 fielding percentage.

“Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players”

25 Jan

In August of 1918 Harry “Moose” McCormick returned to the United States from the front lines in France—he served in the 42nd Infantry, The Rainbow Division, and according to The Washington Herald “has been in the front line trenches for nearly six months.”

Moose McCormick

Moose McCormick

The former outfielder-pinch hitter, who played his final big league game with the New York Giants in 1913, was at the Polo Grounds to watch the Giants sweep a doubleheader from the Boston Braves, and he came to deliver a message; one that had come repeatedly from the general public, but not yet from someone within baseball.

McCormick told reporters that while baseball was hugely popular among the troops in Europe, the major leagues were not.  The Washington Times said, under the headline:

Soldiers ‘Over There’ Sore on Baseball Players

“It may surprise the professional ball players of the United States to know that the American soldiers now fighting in France do not hold them in high esteem; that they do not scramble for news of how the big league races are going, and that they do not care whether (Ty) Cobb, and (Tris) Speaker, and (Frank) Baker are hitting .300 or 3,000.

“The fact that the ball players aren’t hitting in the big, big game across the water is the reason for this feeling.”

The Washington Times said McCormick, then a Lieutenant, “who had just returned from the shell-swept front,” and was in the states “under orders, the nature of which is secret.”

There were various reports as to why McCormick had returned.

The New York Globe said he had come home with “Wound Chevrons on his arm,” having received the badge after being “Mussed up considerably by a German shell.”  The New York Tribune said he had been “Invalided home” suffering from “Shell shock.”  The New York World said he returned with “A hacking cough caused by gas.”

McCormick told reporters:

“The feeling among the boys over there seems generally to be that the ball players haven’t acted on the level.  The soldiers feel that there has been too much evasion, too much hanging back, too much side stepping by the ball players when other men, just as good, have given up paying places and gone into the big game.  That seems to them the ONLY thing for real men just now.

“The boys are generally incensed over the statements they read to the effect that ball players have sought work in munitions plants and shipyards, where they can keep playing ball.  They regard that as ducking, as a sort of dodging of the issue.”

McCormick said, so complete was the disgust with baseball that “Stars and Stripes, the soldiers’ paper, has stopped printing the big league scores and standings.  That, it seems to me, ought to make baseball men, both players and owners, wake up.”

He said the men at the front were still “interested in baseball,” and “like to play ball,” but were having trouble getting enough baseballs:

Baseball game with members of the Twenty-eighth Division, Three Hundred and Second U.S. supply train in France

US Soldiers play in France

Governor (John) Tener sent me two every week, and they were worth their weight in gold.  The soldiers get plenty of chance to play it themselves.  They don’t take any interest in men playing it here anymore.”

McCormick, who would be promoted to the rank of captain by the war’s end, concluded that the consensus at the front was that America’s game had failed the country:

“The talk of the soldiers is that the ball players should have volunteered in a body and made up one big organization and gone into the country’s service to fight right at the start.  That would have been a great thing to do.”