Oct. 31, 2007

Spoke — Remembering a baseball great

Spoke: A Biography of Tris SpeakerNow that baseball fans find themselves in that terrible trough between the end of the World Series and the start of spring training in about 96 days, what better way to pass the time than reading and talking about America's Pastime?

A golden opportunity is Thursday, Nov. 1, when distinguished baseball historian and author Charles C. Alexander will be at SMU to talk about his latest book, Spoke: A Biography of Tris Speaker, published by SMU Press. There will be a reception at 6 p.m. in SMU's DeGolyer Library followed by a lecture and book signing.

Tris Speaker was a charter member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, and others. Many believe he was the greatest centerfielder ever to play that position. He was a fiery competitor and immensely popular in his day, yet he is no longer well known by sports fans. Alexanderís biography chronicles Speakerís 22-year career and makes the case that Speaker deserves to be known to a wider audience.

Spoke, which has a forward by Paul Rogers, Sport in American Life series editor and former dean of SMU's Dedman School of Law, is one of a series of sports books being published by SMU Press. Anatomy of Baseball, a collection of stories by baseball writers with a forward by Yogi Berra, will be published in spring 2008.

Alexander is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Ohio University and the author of several other acclaimed baseball books — Ty Cobb, John McGraw, Our Game: An American Baseball History, Rogers Hornsby: A Biography, and Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era — in addition to important works of American intellectual and cultural history.

In an essay titled "My Life With Baseball," Alexander notes that "studying baseball history turned out to be a very rewarding turn in my own work and career. At last, my nearly lifelong love affair with baseball — which had crammed my head with all those statistics and all those unforgettable players and teams and seasons — could be translated into something important enough to do professionally, but also more enjoyable than anything I'd done before. And to be honest, I became far better known as a historian — as a consequence of writing the kinds of books that people really like to read — than I was laboring away on the more traditional topics on which I spent my first couple of decades in the academic profession. And also to be honest, I became not only better known but also, I think, a better historian."

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