Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Voices from the Past: Tris Speaker (1921)

A popular but often overlooked outdoor writer was Morris Ackerman, a syndicated writer who often billed himself as "America's Foremost Angler." In this article, taken from the Ironwood Daily Globe, 01 April 1921, he describes the fishing exploits of one of my favorite baseball players of all time, the legendary hall-of-famer Tris Speaker. I'm a bit of a baseball geek and love the history of the sport, so I have a particular fondness for Speaker, who seemed to embody the skill of Ty Cobb without the social pathology.

By Morris Ackerman,
America's Foremost Angler,

Tris Speaker, manager of the Cleveland world's champion baseball team, is one of the keenest of fishermen.

He was fishing with friends in the vicinity of Boston. The fins were biting as fast as hooks could be baited and dropped overboard.

In the party was Steve O'Neill, Indian catcher. His boat was not far away from Speaker.

"Two bits on the next fish," yells Steve to Spoke.

“You’re on," rejoins the manager.

O'Neill finally called quits.

"A friend of mine in the boat was hocking fish on my line as fast as he could," says Steve, "but Spoke was catching his fish faster than our team could operate."

On another occasion Speaker and a crowd of friends went fishing over at Middle Bass Island, Lake Erie. The wind made it impossible for them to
take their boats out.

One of the party caught a small green frog, baited his hook, cast out in a quiet cove off the lee shore, and promised his friends the surprise of their lives.

"There'll be a fine bass on that hook battling for its life in a few minutes," he remarked.

In order to give the experimenter a fair show, all hands retired to the feed galley.

"After lunch we went down to pull in the bass," says Tris, "and there was the fine little green frog sitting on the cork."

One time, down at Turkeyfoot lake, one of the natives wanted to show Spoke how to catch a croppie.

He baited a hook with a small minnow and hung it from the dock. Later on we went down to ascertain results.

A big croppie had swallowed the minnow and a big bass had swallowed the croppie.

"If we wait an hour and come a big musky may have the bass," said Speaker.

But the native said there weren't any muskies in the lake.

Speaker was a legendary hitter and a great manager. Like many baseball players, from Babe Ruth to Dusty Baker, he also loved to fish. The connection between baseball and angling is one worth remembering and exploring at greater depth.

-- Dr. Todd

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