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Fluent Speaker of Baseball

Written by Lori Grossman.

Hubbard native Tristram E. Speaker overcame a serious childhood injury to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Born on April 4, 1888, Tristram–"Tris" for short–started life as a right-hander. At the age of 10, he suffered a broken right arm and collarbone when a horse threw him. The accident forced him to begin throwing left-handed. Amazingly, this adjustment did not derail his budding baseball career.

After a year at Fort Worth's Polytechnic College (now Texas Wesleyan University), Speaker began his professional playing days in 1906 as a pitcher in Cleburne, with the North Texas League. Over the next few years, he spent most of his time in the minor leagues, always on the lookout for a major-league contract.

His big break came in 1909. Speaker joined the Boston Red Sox, where he developed into an outstanding outfielder. The young Texan's speed, plus his uncanny knack of judging the trajectory of the ball in flight, influenced the way future outfielders would play their positions.

Speaker's skill at hitting rivaled his defensive accomplishments. During his years with four major-league teams–the Boston Red Sox (1909-15), Cleveland Indians (1916-26), Washington Senators (1927), and Philadelphia Athletics (1928)–he batted over .300 in 18 out of 19 seasons.

From 1919 to 1926, Cleveland's star player also served as its manager. This dual role seemed to bring out the best in him and his team. In 1920, Speaker batted .388 and batted in 107 runs. The Indians beat the Brooklyn Dodgers that year to become the World Series champions.

Speaker ranks among the greatest hitters in baseball history, with a .345 lifetime batting average. Nicknamed "Spoke" and "The Grey Eagle" (his hair had turned grey by the time he was 30), he compiled 792 doubles, a record that still stands. In 1937, Speaker became the first Texan elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. In 1951, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame chose him as its first honoree.

In December 1958, while on a fishing trip at Lake Whitney, Tris Speaker suffered a fatal heart attack. He was buried in Hubbard's Fairview Cemetery.

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