Tris Speaker with the Cleveland Indians (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)

May 17, 1925: Cleveland’s Tris Speaker records 3,000th career hit

This article was written by Gordon J. Gattie

Tris Speaker with the Cleveland Indians (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)Tris Speaker was accustomed to flying around the basepaths. The legendary center fielder and current Cleveland Indians player-manager, now 37 years old, endured inflammation caused by a dislocated fibula in mid-May of 1925.1 Speaker had played in at least 127 games each season over the past 16 years and was not accustomed to skipping ballgames. He missed three games after he twisted his left knee while stepping in an outfield hole during a game against Boston,2 then returned to the Indians after receiving medical attention from Dr. Harry Knight. Dr. Knight, who had treated 212 ballplayers the previous season, commented that Speaker had “the greatest pair of legs he ever had seen.”3 Speaker remained an offensive force for Cleveland, hitting .372 in 113 plate appearances through May 13. One early-season accomplishment was a 15-game hitting streak, including an eight-game multi-hit streak.

Speaker’s Indians were in third place with a 16-9 record, 3½ games behind the AL-leading Philadelphia Athletics and 1½ games behind that afternoon’s opponent, the Washington Senators. Washington had defeated Cleveland the previous afternoon, 6-2, in the first game of their four-game series. The Indians started the season strong following a disappointing 67-86 finish the previous year. The Indians featured a solid outfield led by veterans Speaker and Charlie Jamieson, with Joe Sewell anchoring the infield and Glenn Myatt behind the plate. The pitching staff featured 20-game winner Joe Shaute, veteran left-hander Sherry Smith, and George Uhle, who had won 22 and 26 games in 1922 and 1923, but regressed in 1924, winning only nine. Cleveland did lose veteran right-hander Stan Coveleski, who had been traded to Washington in the offseason. Although the Indians’ pitching had been questionable over the past couple of seasons, Speaker was optimistic about his staff during spring training.4

The Senators were reigning World Series champions. After defeating the New York Giants in seven games, Washington was favored to repeat as the AL pennant winner, although concern was expressed about the staff’s aging pitchers.5 Like the Indians, the Senators were guided by a future Hall of Fame player-manager, Bucky Harris, with three other future Hall of Famers on the roster: Walter Johnson, Goose Goslin, and Sam Rice. The trio had played together since 1921 when the 20-year-old Goslin joined the club. Washington was 18-8, two games behind Philadelphia, but riding a four-game winning streak.

Uhle received Cleveland’s starting assignment. The 6-foot right-hander was 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 58 innings pitched. He had won a complete game four days earlier against Boston. Uhle had not faced the Senators so far in the season and struggled against them the previous season. Cleveland’s starter threw a fastball and overhead curve, which was complemented by a slider later in his career.6 In early May, Uhle received praise for his improved performance; The Sporting News reported that the “big righthander is showing great control and has all the zip needed on his fast ball and curve.”7

Tom Zachary started for Washington. The struggling 6-foot-1 veteran right-hander was 2-1 with a 5.04 ERA in 25 innings pitched. He struggled with control issues, issuing 15 walks against only seven strikeouts thus far. Zachary had lost his previous start, when he allowed four runs on four hits and four walks in six innings against the St. Louis Browns. He had finished with double digits in wins during the preceding five seasons and was expected to be a key component of Washington’s staff.8 His pitching repertoire has been referenced as unconventional and included the knuckleball.9

Despite the low temperature, 20,000 baseball fans attended the Sunday afternoon game.10 Uhle started the game by retiring Washington on two groundouts and a lineout. In the bottom of the first, Rube Lutzke doubled to right field with one out. Speaker lined out to short, and Lutzke was doubled off second base. Zachary benefited from another inning-ending double play in the following frame when George Burns grounded into one with runners on first and second.

Washington scored first, in the third inning. With two outs, Rice doubled into the left-center gap. Bucky Harris singled down the left-field line, just over the third-base bag. He plated Rice and advanced to second base on the throw home. Joe Harris grounded out. Washington led 1-0.

The Senators missed another scoring opportunity in the fourth inning. Goslin reached first on an infield error but was picked off by catcher Luke Sewell. Mule Shirley reached base on a wide throw by shortstop Joe Sewell. Ossie Bluege flied out. Roger Peckinpaugh singled to left field, but Shirley was thrown out attempting to reach third base. Lutzke, Cleveland’s third baseman, made a spectacular defensive play to tag out Shirley. Jamieson’s throw from left field was offline; Lutzke “went almost to the third base coaching box for the sphere and then dove across the bag to touch Shirley before he could reach the cushion.”11 Cleveland’s two fielding errors were negated by two Washington baserunning outs. In the Indians’ half, Zachary escaped another jam, benefiting from another double play. Lutzke struck out to start the inning, Zachary’s lone strikeout victim in the game. Speaker doubled into left field, his 2,998th career hit. Joe Sewell was hit by a pitch. With runners on first and second, Luke Sewell grounded into an around-the-horn double play to preserve the Senators’ slim lead.

In the Washington sixth, Goslin doubled off the right-field wall, missing a home run by a foot. In the Cleveland sixth, Speaker delivered career base knock number 2,999, a single into right field. Each team’s bats fell silent during the seventh inning as both sides were retired in order.

Washington bats awakened in the eighth inning. Rice led off with a bloop single, which landed just over Lutzke and six inches away from Joe Sewell’s glove.12 Bucky Harris sacrificed Rice to second base. Joe Harris singled up the middle on a 3-and-2 count,13 scoring Rice and giving the Senators a 2-0 lead. In the bottom half, Washington changed its defense, moving Goslin from center field to left field, Joe Harris from left field to first base, and Earl McNeely replacing Goslin in center field. (McNeeley replaced first baseman Mule Shirley in the batting order.) Cleveland pinch-hitter Joe Klugmann started the inning by grounding out. Uhle hit an infield single. He advanced to second on Jamieson’s groundout. Lutzke fouled out to end the inning.

The Senators hit all grounders in the ninth inning, including an infield single by Bluege deep in the hole between short and third, though he didn’t advance. In the bottom half and down two runs, Speaker jump-started Cleveland’s inning with a single. His third hit that afternoon enabled the Gray Eagle to join the exclusive 3,000-hit club as its fifth member, behind Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Napoleon Lajoie, and Ty Cobb.14 Speaker’s accomplishment was noted but not immediately celebrated. Ray Knode ran for Speaker. Joe Sewell lined out. Luke Sewell doubled. For the first time that afternoon, there were two runners in scoring position. Knode scored on Cliff Lee’s sacrifice fly while Luke Sewell advanced to third base. With two outs and the tying run 90 feet away, Burns popped out to second base. Washington held on for a 2-1 win.

In addition to delivering his 3,000th hit,15 Speaker doubled and singled twice to raise his batting average to .388. Rice scored both Washington runs and was the only Senator with two hits. Both pitchers went the distance, with Zachary earning his third win and Uhle absorbing his second loss. Their combined control was notable, as the two pitchers combined to issue only one walk.

The Senators repeated as 1925 AL champions, compiling a 96-55 record and finishing 8½ games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics. They fell just short of repeating as World Series champions, losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. The Indians finished the season in sixth place with a 70-84 record, 28½ games behind Washington. Cleveland dropped 14 of 15 games from June 15 to 29 and didn’t move above sixth place thereafter.

Tris Speaker exhibited little deleterious effects of age that season. He finished with an AL-leading .479 OBP in 518 plate appearances. His 1.057 OPS was the third highest in his career, and his 6.5 Wins Above Replacement (per was the AL’s third-highest total among position players. Speaker was named as a Baseball Writers’ Association of America AL All-Star,16 batting .389 with 35 doubles, 12 home runs, and 87 RBIs while patrolling center field. He nearly captured his second AL batting title, losing out to Detroit’s Harry Heilman on the season’s final day when Heilman banged out six hits during a doubleheader.17 Speaker finished his career with 3,514 hits, the fifth highest total in major-league history. In 1937 he was part of the second class voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.18



Besides the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and the following:

James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (New York: The Free Press, 2001).



1 “Speaker Makes His 3,000th Safe Drive,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 1925: 20.

2 Ralph M. Dorn, “Benny Karr Makes Himself Valuable,” The Sporting News, May 21, 1925: 3.

3 “Speaker Makes His 3,000th Safe Drive.”

4 Francis J. Powers, “Pitching Brighter, So Is Tris Speaker,” The Sporting News, March 26, 1925: 1.

5 Paul W. Eaton, “Griff Not Hurrying Veteran Pitchers,” The Sporting News, March 26, 1925: 1.

6 Bill James and Rob Neyer, The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers: An Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers, and Pitches (New York: Fireside Books, 2004), 408.

7 Francis J. Powers, “Spurgeon Shares in Tribe’s Success,” The Sporting News, May 7, 1925: 2.

8 Paul W. Eaton, “For Washington, Johnson and Ruel,” The Sporting News, February 26, 1925: 5.

9 James and Neyer, 436.

10 Stuart M. Bell, “Zachary Hurls Nats to Second Win Over Tribe by 2-1 Count,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 1925: 1.

11 “Lutzke Hero of Brilliant Play,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 1925: 21.

12 Bell.

13 Denman Thompson, “Joe Harris Making Good Record as Griff: Sam Gray Hurls Seventh Win in Row,” Washington Evening Star, May 18, 1925: 22.

14 Multiple newspaper accounts noted that Speaker was the sixth person to reach 3,000 hits. The sixth player mentioned was Sam Crawford, who was listed with 3,051 hits in 9,849 at-bats for a .310 batting average in several newspaper accounts on May 18, 1925. Major-league records, including those at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, list Crawford with 2,961 hits in 9,570 at-bats for a .309 lifetime batting average.

15 A potential discrepancy exists regarding the actual date Speaker delivered hit number 3,000. Several sources (,,, and Total Baseball Fourth Edition) show that Speaker accumulated 2,961 hits from his 1907 debut through 1924. From the start of the 1925 season (April 14) through May 17, 1925, the batting game logs on Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference show Speaker accumulating 38 hits. If the hit totals from his major-league debut through May 17, 1925, are correct, Speaker collected 2,999 hits through May 17, 1925. He collected hit number 3,000 on May 18, 1925, a first-inning single off Washington pitcher George Mogridge.

16 “Big League Writers Select All-Star Team for The Sporting News,” The Sporting News, November 19, 1925: 3.

17 “Bengal Slugger Goes on Hitting Rampage,” Detroit Free Press, October 5, 1925: 16.

18 Stuart Cameron, “Speaker, Young, Lajoie in Baseball ‘Hall of Fame,’” Dayton (Ohio) Herald, January 20, 1937: 16.

Additional Stats

Washington Senators 2
Cleveland Indians 1

Dunn Field
Cleveland, OH


Box Score + PBP:

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