Swede Risberg

Risberg helped destroy a team that might have rivaled the great Yankees of the 1920s. Barred for life for throwing the 1919 Series, he also fixed games in his rookie year and in 1920. Rough and rangy, he once knocked out a minor league umpire with one punch after a called third strike. Though he didn’t have the incredible range he’s sometimes credited with, he had a powerful arm. Risberg’s arrival allowed Buck Weaver to move back to third base, his natural position. Risberg despised his double play partner, Eddie Collins, for his talent, character, education, air of superiority, and above all, salary. He preferred the tough Chick Gandil, who enlisted the young shortstop as his first lieutenant in the fix. During the ensuing trial, Joe Jackson requested protection after Risberg threatened to kill him if he dared talk. “The Swede is a hard guy,” said Jackson.

Later in the 1920s, in an attempt to discredit players he called “white lilies,” Risberg claimed that Detroit had thrown four games in 1917 to help the Sox clinch the flag. Along with other charges, this led to a major investigation of more than 30 players, among them some of the most famous names in the AL. During the hearing, Tiger pitcher Bernie Boland yelled at Risberg, “You’re still a pig!”

When only Gandil and Happy Felsch backed up Swede’s story, Commissioner Landis dismissed the charges. The case, however, resulted in strong anti-betting edicts, a statute of limitations, and the abolition of the common practice of teams rewarding other teams with “gifts” for defeating pennant rivals. During his exile, Risberg played semi-pro ball, worked on a dairy farm, and ran a tavern which proudly displayed his name. He was the last survivor of the eight Black Sox.