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Tris Speaker in Shallow CF

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  • Tris Speaker in Shallow CF

    Since 1901 has anyone ever played a position played as unorthodox as Speaker played CF and played as successfully. Not counting team shifts and/or strategic defensive alignments. No one played CF this way as radically since and Speaker did it to the tune of a HoF career and great peer reviews. So why didn't anyone else give it a shot, at least.
    "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

  • #2
    Speaker talks of center-field play

    Center-Field Lightning, What Tris Speaker Thinks, by Kyle Crichton - Collier's - March 26, 1938

    http://www.unz.org/Pub/Colliers-1938mar26-00017

    CenterFieldLighting.jpg

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bluesky5 View Post
      Since 1901 has anyone ever played a position played as unorthodox as Speaker played CF and played as successfully. Not counting team shifts and/or strategic defensive alignments. No one played CF this way as radically since and Speaker did it to the tune of a HoF career and great peer reviews. So why didn't anyone else give it a shot, at least.
      Why would anyone today play shallow like Speaker did in the Dead Ball Era?
      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
        Why would anyone today play shallow like Speaker did in the Dead Ball Era?
        As you know, the conditions enabled him to play extremely shallow. We know it wouldn't work today. Even with stellar instincts, anticipation, and great speed, there were only a dozen hitters probably, who could put one past Speaker, and that was if they caught it squarely. Today, moving even five steps in would be very risky, given that the fat part of the bat, isn't the only way to send a ball deep. As I have been saying on here for years, and it stands, the margin of error for hitters has never been higher. Off balance, end of the bat; no matter.

        Of course, the counter-point would be that fields are shorter, so chances are, the player will only get a double, maybe a triple 15% of the time. Then the next guy(s) are more likely to strike out anyway. Seems to me Andruw used to play a shallow-er than "normal" center, could be wrong though.

        Down in Arizona we play in Tempe Diablo Stadium and ancillary spring training fields, 450 to center and 390 or so to the gaps. Playing center on those fields, turning and looking at all the real estate certainly makes you think twice about coming in. And that's not against big league hitters.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
          Seems to me Andruw used to play a shallow-er than "normal" center, could be wrong though.
          I remember seeing Andruw play shallow at times also. He had such a great read on balls over his head, it didn't really matter where he played when he was young.
          "Chuckie doesn't take on 2-0. Chuckie's hackin'." - Chuck Carr two days prior to being released by the Milwaukee Brewers

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Ben Grimm View Post
            I remember seeing Andruw play shallow at times also. He had such a great read on balls over his head, it didn't really matter where he played when he was young.
            Ok, so wasn't just me. Based on the hitter, his stance, his tendencies, the count, what the pitcher was throwing, and where he was throwing it, aside from where the wind was blowing or if there were men on base.....seemed to me also, that Andruw played shallow and got great jumps, often snagging would-be liner and blooper singles.

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            • #7
              Didn't both Mickey Rivers and Willie Wilson play short Cf? Wilson at least.

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              • #8
                I think Tris still holds the record for unassisted DP's for outfielders, easy to understand.
                May still be the only outfielder with an unassisted DP in World Series play.
                Some talk about Tris taking a pick off throw from the pitcher. Wouldn't doubt if he did have a few or more.
                Easier for him to sneak in behind the runner than the two infielders.

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                • #9
                  Lotsa stuff about Spoke were unique. Another guy who sadly isn't remembered as well by Joe Public the way he should.

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                  • #10
                    Speaker spent hours upon hours with Cy Young. Young hit so many fly balls to him that Speaker could detect its path as soon as it left the bat.

                    The only person I've seen play shallow in my short lifetime is the briefly lived Willy Mo Pena. Unfortunately, his skill could not support this approach, turning every fly ball into an adventure.
                    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

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                    • #11
                      Henry Thomas (Walter Johnson's grandson and biographer) claims that Clyde Milan played even shallower than Speaker. While there's no question Milan was one of the top ballhawks of his day, I very much doubt the veracity of this claim.
                      A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

                      --Cobb, Grantland Rice

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TomBodet View Post
                        Lotsa stuff about Spoke were unique. Another guy who sadly isn't remembered as well by Joe Public the way he should.
                        Speaker, who I do think was awesome, hasn't played in over 80 years. As an unpublished amateur historian, I don't think there's anything sad about time marching on. It's an unrealistic expectation or lament to expect Joe Public to know or care about everything.
                        Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                        Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
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                        Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                        Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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                        • #13
                          I know we will never know, no way to measure.
                          Overall was Tris playing so shallow, over his career in the deadball era, was it of more benefit to his team.
                          Understandable picking off those shallow fly balls, loads of assists, DP's, but I wonder how many balls got by him, to either side or over his head in all those years.

                          Looking at his total put outs, looks pretty good.
                          Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 02-15-2013, 09:42 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Two greats thinking alike :

                            “I figured that 98 percent of all safe hits to the outfield drop in front of outfielders or between them,” Speaker remembered years later. “That’s why I played so close in.”

                            "I was playing very shallow," Mays said. "I always played shallow. Ninety percent of balls are bloopers, balls hit in front of you. You'll give those one or two hits over your head. I was lucky enough, speedy enough to catch those balls.”

                            And a story that speaks to the transition from deadball to lively ball :

                            Lefty Gomez famously cornered the rookie Joe DiMaggio after a game. DiMaggio had let a ball go over his head and had been playing shallow. Gomez asked what the heck he was doing so shallow? "I'm going to make them forget all about Speaker." Gomez replies: "You're gonna make them forget about Lefty Gomez!"

                            Besides Mays, Paul Blair played a shallow CF. Blair was an outfield coach after he retired and was always trying to get his outfielders to play closer in.
                            Last edited by westfield; 02-15-2013, 04:00 PM.
                            ''A sport without black people ain't a sport. That's just a game!... That's like me saying, 'Ooh, I got the highest SAT score in the whole world, but no Asians took the test.' What kind of crap is that? 'I just won the marathon. No Kenyans could run, though!'''
                            Chris Rock

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                            • #15
                              I donno Mr. Nose, I think Joe Public could use some Grey Eagle in their lives. But thats me.

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