Monday, December 7, 2015
209. Tris Speaker: Fenway Park, 1912
Over the past two weeks I've unveiled two of my commissions for The National Pastime Museum: my interpretation of "Casey at the Bat" and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The third and final piece commissioned was of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker.
Speaker had a long, illustrious career, first with the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series in 1912 and 1915, and then with the Cleveland Indians where he led the Tribe to the 1920 World Championship. When Speaker wrapped up his career in 1928 his average was frozen at .345, still sixth best of all-time. He holds the record for career doubles and ranks fifth in total hits. As powerful as Speaker was at the plate, he truly excelled in the outfield - beat writers at the time gave his glove the coolest description ever bestowed on an inanimate piece of sporting equipment - "the place triples go to die".
As good as he was on the playing field, Tris Speaker also had a dark side. As a young player with Boston he was mixed up in the Catholic vs. Protestant rivalry on the team, something he brought with him when he moved to Cleveland in 1916. His anti-Catholic feelings were so strong that he refused to attend his friend Ray Chapman's funeral after he was killed by Carl Mays' erritant pitch in 1920 because it was in a Catholic church. Sportswriter Fred Lieb wrote in his book "Baseball as I have Known It" that Speaker revealed he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Still, when Larry Doby joined the Indians in 1947, Speaker was a scout/good will ambassador for the club and reportedly displayed complete support for the AL's first Black ballplayer.
Speaker's career in the majors ended under a dark cloud in 1926 when he and Ty Cobb were implicated in a game-fixing scandal by former teammate Dutch Leonard. An investigation by Commissioner Landis ultimately found nothing to it, but by the time he was cleared Speaker was out of the majors and managing in minor leagues. Scandal or no scandal, Tris Speaker left behind such impressive numbers that nothing could possibly stand in the way of his enshrinement in Cooperstown.
For my illustration I wanted to do something that visually popped. I went through my library and found a photo postcard of a player wearing a 1911-1912 Red Sox warm-up sweater. Made of red and white wool, that thing must have popped in real life. the time period worked well, too. 1912 was Speaker's first really great year in majors as he helped bring Boston a World Championship - and even better - 1912 was the inaugural year for Fenway Park.
So, allow me to introduce Tristram E. Speaker, Fenway Park, Fall of 1912...
I'd like to thank The National Pastime Museum for the commission of these three pieces. On top of being a lot of fun to research and execute, it is a great honor to be part of their permanent collection of baseball art.
Those who have met me in person know I'm not the kind of guy to toot my own horn. In fact, much to my detriment, I'm lousy about promoting myself. That's why it's hard for me to ask this, but this is something that needs to be done: if you bought a copy of The League of Outsider Baseball, can you please take the time to write a review of it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Good Reads? It would mean a lot to me and most importantly give future publishers an idea of what the book reading public thinks of my work. Almost all of the existing reader's reviews have been flattering, but every once in a while some crackpot writes a clunker out of jealousy or boredom. I for one often look at the reviews on those sites before I spend my money on a book. Reviews aren't the only thing I rely on in my purchasing process but it's certainly a factor, and that's why I'm asking you to please take the time to write your thoughts about my work.