More than eight decades after his final game, Tris Speaker still holds American League records for most chances, putouts, assists, and double plays. He also holds the mark for most unassisted double plays – a defensive trick he performed a half dozen times in his career when he caught a ball in shallow center field and beat the runner back to the bag at second. His defensive instincts were superb and his throwing arm was accurate and strong. He remains the greatest defensive center fielder of all-time.
If that were all there were to Speaker’s resume, he would be a Hall of Famer, but there’s much more. In his 22-year career he hit .345 with more than 3,500 hits – including a record 792 doubles. A few of his contemporaries may have had something on Speaker: Ty Cobb was a better pure hitter and base stealer; Joe Jackson had a prettier swing; Babe Ruth had more pop in his bat; Eddie Collins was faster. But Speaker was a better all-around player than any of them. He was a complete package. As author Timothy Gay pointed out in Tris Speaker: The Rough-and-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend, Speaker was the best all-around player in the history of two franchises: the Red Sox and Indians.
Of all the stars of his era, Speaker was the most successful as player/manager. He led Cleveland to their first World Series championship in his first season in that role and posted winning records in five of his seven full seasons as a skipper.
In 1912, Speaker had three hitting streaks of 20 or more games for Boston, the only player ever to do that in one season. Over one stretch, he hit safely in 74 of 78 games.
Longest Hitting Streaks by a Red Sox Player
1. Dom DiMaggio … 34 games (1949)
2. Tris Speaker … 30 games (1912)
3. Nomar Garciaparra … 30 games (1997)
4. Johnny Damon … 29 games (2005)
5. Wade Boggs … 28 games (1985)
6. Dom DiMaggio … 27 games (1951)
7. Manny Ramirez … 27 games (2006)
8. Nomar Garciaparra … 26 games (2003)
9. Buck Freeman … 26 games (1902)
10. Johnny Pesky … 26 games (1947)