Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tris Speaker, By: Timothy M. Gay

As the back of the book states, “Tris Speaker tells the story of one
of baseball’s true legends, offering an honest look at Speaker’s roughshod, frontier-forged personality.” And that really sums it up. All too forgotten in the annals of baseball history, this book hopes to bring the greatness of Tris Speaker to a new generation. Speaker wasn’t extreme enough in his personality to warrant much publicity through the years. He was a partier, but not like Babe Ruth. He was a bigot, but not like Ty Cobb. He had some gambling issues, but not like the Black Sox. He was the sixth man elected to the Hall-of-Fame, but just missed the first class and the history that went with it. He just missed getting the press coverage. This book hopes to rectify that.

I’ll admit. I didn’t know much about Tris Speaker. I knew he was the guy in the Red Sox media guide who had 35 assists in a season for the Sox. Twice. I remember wondering why people didn’t just stop running on the guy after a while. Then, I saw that due to the dead ball era, he played a very shallow centerfield. He got some of those assists by being the pivot man on 5-8-3 double plays. So, I sort of chalked him up to being a dead-ball gimmick. This book certainly opened my eyes. Tris Speaker was a fantastic player. How he doesn’t have a statue outside Fenway Park is beyond me. It’s a definite must read for any Red Sox fan. The book does have a couple issues. Gay tends to bounce around a little with his narrative. He’ll tell you something’s coming and then tell you about it later. (Much like one of those tabloid television shows) So, it was sometimes tricky to remember that the stuff only happened once. He also tended to go off on tangents. I assume that was because there just isn’t much information left on Tris Speaker. He couldn’t interview anyone who was alive when Speaker played. There’s not a lot of video. So, sometimes Gay had to wander where the information took him, even if a paragraph was more about Smokey Joe Wood than Tris Speaker. But, in the end, none of that mattered. This book affected me in a way that was unexpected. I find myself wanting to tell everyone I see what a great player Speaker was. I’m certainly telling everyone reading this review to read the book.

Rating: 4 bases

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