From Publishers Weekly
Tristam "Spoke" Speaker sits, statistically, alongside baseball's greatest sluggers and fielders, but his story and name have largely been forgotten. Gay, in his first book, has unearthed the colorful history of this ne'er say die Texas cowboy, giving baseball fans a fresh look at the Hall of Fame center fielder whose colorful personality and remarkable talent were overshadowed by contemporaries like Ty Cobb and Cy Young. (Even the Speaker-Cobb-Wood-Leonard betting affair of 1919 was eclipsed in disgrace by the Black Sox gambling scandal.) Speaker still holds the mark for most career doubles-792, as a member of the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians-and the shallow position he occupied just behind second base revolutionized the way outfield was played. From 1910-15, Speaker centered Boston's Golden Outfield of Duffy Lewis and Cat Hooper, and nearly 30 years after their final game together (the Golden boys shared the Sox outfield for nearly six seasons), scribe Grantland Rice called the trio "the greatest defensive outfield I ever saw." The phrase "where triples go to die" was originally penned of Speaker's glove, but history somehow misplaced the attribution to Joe Jackson. Gay has insured the righting of history with this biography. A worthwhile read for any sports fan.
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Hall of Fame outfielder Speaker was a contemporary of Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson. He wasn't quite their equal as a hitter, but he was far superior in the field. Off the field, however, he had nothing to match Cobb's psychotic, racist personality or Shoeless Joe's involvement in the Black Sox scandal and, thus, remains relatively forgotten. Gay hopes to change that with this first serious biography of Speaker. It's carefully researched and documented, engagingly written, and very illuminating. Speaker was both saint and sinner but never long enough to have either term permanently affixed to his name. At one time, he was every bit as racist as Cobb but was seldom outspoken, and, in later years as a Cleveland Indians coach, he tutored the American League's first black player, Larry Doby. And like Jackson, he most likely had a hand in a few shady gambling deals, but he was smart enough to not get caught. Gay has filled a serious gap in baseball history, and his effort compares favorably with Charles Alexander's acclaimed biographies of John McGraw and Ty Cobb. Wes LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved