So what is the worst trade the Boston Red Sox have ever made? The uninitiated will undoubtedly scream RUTH!! However, there was never a “Curse of the Bambino.” While the Ruth deal was catastrophic, then-Sox owner Harry Frazee made several trades over the period worse than Ruth. If one looks at the 1923 World Champion Yankees, 12 of the 25 on that roster were exiles from Boston, sold off by Frazee to supplement his capital in order to finance his true love: Broadway, and off-Broadway, musicals.
The greatest sin Frazee ever perpetrated was trading Tris Speaker to Cleveland when Speaker wanted a bump in pay. Simply put, Speaker was considered the greatest outfielder of his time, a tremendous power hitter from the dead ball era who owns the record for most lifetime doubles, 792. His slash line numbers are tremendous, at .345/.428/.500 over a 22 year career.
Speaker was, and to some, still is, considered the best defensive center fielder of all time. He played remarkably shallow, resulting in an ungodly amount of outfield assists, 448 for his career, also a record. A typical Speaker center field play was such: a batter bloops a ball in front of Speaker in Center, Speaker fields it, and throws to first to nab the guy. Picture that in today’s baseball landscape. It was a different game in those dead ball days, and Speaker was one of its foremost practitioners.
One cannot speak of, um, Speaker, without mentioning this: He was allegedly a grandmaster of his local branch of the Ku Klux Klan. I have a hard time believing this, as there is ample evidence in the years following the end of his playing days of Speaker helping numerous black, and Jewish, and Italian, outfielders better acquaint themselves to the rigors of playing solid defense. One man Speaker was instrumental in helping in his transition from second base to center field was Larry Doby, the first Black ballplayer in the American League. The Klan rumors, however, have persisted to this day. But let that rumor be a lesson to all, especially the BBWAA when they are voting for admittance to the Hall of Fame. The so-called morals and ethics clause is cited by these hacks when excluding players tainted by the suspicion of steroids. So where was this morals clause when a rumored clansmen was one of the initial entries into the Hall? Or proven bigots like Cap Anson and Ty Cobb? The morals clause pertaining to entry into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown is one of the biggest jokes, and biggest crutches, in sports. Either a player is a Hall of Fame performer or not, judge it by his actions on the field.
Okay, I am off my soapbox now. But the main point should still remain: Tris Speaker was a hell of a ballplayer, and his trade from Boston to Cleveland was the beginning (but not the end) of the Red Sox downward spiral from grace.