Tag Archives: Swede Risberg

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things: Ty Cobb Edition

25 Jul

“I didn’t make any bets but we won the Game”

After Swede Risberg and Chick Gandil alleged in late 1926 that the Detroit Tigers had thrown four games to the Chicago White Sox late in the 1917 season—a story that was contradicted by more than two dozen former Tigers and White Sox players—Ty Cobb told Bert Walker of The Detroit Times that the St. Louis Browns likely threw the final three games of the season against the Tigers in 1923.

cobb

Cobb

Walker said before the first game of the series on October 1, Browns players approached Cobb and said:

“’You are going to win today’s game.  We will not try to take it.  Those damned —–, meaning the Indians, have insulted us all season and we hope you beat them out.’”

Cobb told Walker:

“’I was in uniform at the time, and went to the office of (Tigers President Frank) Navin and told him the whole thing.  There was still more than an hour in which to get down bets on a sure thing.  I do not know if any bets were made or not.  I didn’t make any bets but we won the game.’”

The Tigers swept the season-ending series three game series with the Browns while the Indians split a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox, resulting in Detroit finishing a half game ahead of Cleveland.

“The Percentage of Those Whom I Have Spiked”

Cobb talked to The Dayton Herald in 1915 about why baseball was not a profession for everyone:

“It is hard to succeed in baseball, not because the game is hard in itself, but because of the rebuffs that a player receives from all sides…Several years ago when I broke into the big show, I was a target for all the remarks sport writers could not fire at anyone else.

cobb3

“It was simply because when I slid into a base and would put all the force I possessed into my slide, they said I was a rowdy and that I was trying my best to spike the other fellow.

“Well, if the records were kept, it would be shown that the percentage of those whom I have spiked would be no higher than that of any other major leaguer in the game.”

“Sure, I’ll hit, Watch me”

In 1925, Frank G. Menke of The New York Daily News marveled that Cobb was, at age 38, still one of the game’s best hitters—he was hitting above .400 when the article appeared in June and ended up fourth in the American League with a .378 average:

“No man can think of Ty Cobb without gasping over his bewildering ability as a ballplayer.

“There never was a player like him—none remotely approached.  And so long as the game endures there shall not be another like him because Cobb is superlative, peerless, and alone.”

Cobb hit 12 home runs that season, tying his highest career output.  Menke told the story behind Cobb’s biggest power outburst of the season:

cobb1

Ty Cobb

“Out in St. Louis (on May 5) some rabid fans proceeded to ‘bait’ Cobb.  They jeered him, called him a ‘has-been’—and dared him to do some hitting.  Scoffing and sneers take the fight and the heart out of some men; they serve merely as spurs to greater endeavor within others.  And Cobb is the latter type.

“’Want me to hit, hey’ sneered back Cobb at the hooting throng.  ‘Sure, I’ll hit.  Watch me.’

“And within two playing days Cobb banged out five home runs.”

“Many say he was so Modest he Hated to have his Picture Taken”

30 Mar

In the winter of 1918 Malcolm MacLean of The Chicago Evening Post wrote about the peculiar reactions of a few players to photographers:

“It may happen that a pitcher does a phenomenal streak of work and his photo should run.  It may be the only one of him in stock that has been used time and again—so often, in fact, that it is all but worn out.

“Hence it is necessary for a photographer to snap said fellow’s photo on the ball field.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred this is a pipe. Yet there are exceptions.”

MacLean said he recalled a handful if examples of players refusing:

“In practically every case it was that uncanny thing known as ‘baseball superstition’ that made it difficult, almost impossible, to get them to pose.

(Urban) Red Faber, of the White Sox, on two occasions (during the 1917 season) lost ball games after he had been snapped.  So he announced his intention of refusing to pose again until the White Sox won the American League championship.  Another member of the Sox, Charles (Swede) Risberg, joined him in the declaration. And they stuck to it.

Red Faber

Red Faber

“The day after the title was clinched both Faber and Risberg were among the easiest fellows on the squad to photograph.  In their case it was ‘superstition’ and we don’t know they could be blamed.  If a player keeps winning, only to have the streak smashed the day his photo is taken, well we have an idea we’d do the same thing.”

MacLean said during Rube Marquard’s 19-game winning streak the Giants’ pitcher refused to allow a Chicago photographer to take his picture.  MacLean said he and a cameraman approached the pitcher on July 8, 1912:

 “’Nothing doing,’ he said.  ‘Come around any time you want after I’ve lost a game and you’re welcome to all you want.’  It so happened that Rube lost that day, Jimmy Lavender hanging the bee on him, and the following afternoon Rube posed and posed and posed.”

MacLean said Jim Thorpe was a particularly difficult subject to photograph when he began his major league career, but not due to superstition:

“When Thorpe first came to Chicago with the Giants, he was the most widely advertised athlete in the world.  He was fresh from his triumphs in Sweden on the track field and from the gridiron at Carlisle.

“Many say he was so modest he hated to have his picture taken.  At any rate, many a film and plate was wasted on him because he would turn his face away, throw up his arm in front of him, or do something also to ruin the exposure.”

Jim Thorpe--Airedale fan

Jim Thorpe

Another difficult member of the Giants was catcher John “Chief” Meyers, who MacLean said would brush past photographers, saying:

“’Aw, you’ve got all of me you want,’ It was decidedly exasperating, especially when publicity is what helps keep major leaguers in the majors.”

Two other oft-photographed pitchers had their own particular quirks.

MacLean said:

“It will surprise many to learn that Ed Walsh, of the White Sox…refused to pose on the day he was expected to pitch…Few men were snapped so frequently as Ed when he was in his prime, yet we venture to say no man ever got a photo of him—when Ed knew it—on the day he was to work.

Eddie Plank, of the Athletics…was one of the easiest of all men to photograph, but it was exceedingly difficult to get a good one of him.  The reason was he kept tossing stones at the camera or twisting up his face in some farcical fashion.  And when other players were being taken Ed would throw peddles at them, trying to have them distort their faces.”

Eddie Plank

Eddie Plank

“Out of the Game”

2 Nov

ripley

A September 1920 cartoon in The New York Globe, “Cleaning Up” by Robert Ripley–later famous for “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” which he began drawing two years earlier–calling on organized baseball to banish  Hal Chase, Heinie Zimmerman, and six members of the Chicago White Sox: Swede Risberg, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver. Happy Felsh [sic, Felsch] and Lefty Williams–Ripley left out Chick Gandil and Fred McMullin.

Ripley continued to draw baseball cartoons as “Believe it or Not” gained popularity, including the one below from 1921 winter meetings featuring Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Ban Johnson, Kid Gleason, Hooks Wiltse, Charles Ebbets, John McGraw, and Wilbert Robinson.  After The Globe folded in 1923, Ripley moved to The New York Evening News.

ripley2

 

“We are beginning to have a Very Active Doubt as to the Value of Professional Baseball in American Life”

29 Aug

Coming on the heels of the fallout from the Black Sox scandal, The Chicago Tribune announced a change in editorial policy three weeks after “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch., Claude “Lefty” Williams, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, George “Buck” Weaver, Fred McMullin, and Charles “Swede” Risberg were acquitted of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series.

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

Buck Weaver and Swede Risberg during the trial

The paper said:

The Tribune has begun to use the compressor on professional baseball stories. The baseball reporters write them well, but we are getting a little tired of the subject. We are beginning to have a very active doubt as to the value of professional baseball in American life.”

The paper said baseball received a “black eye which jury verdicts did not whiten.”

The Tribune said they would place a greater emphasis on coverage of amateur sports which “produce sound citizenry.”  Professional baseball was also making Americans soft:

“The majority of spectators get only eye and mouth exercise.  We have conceded that the professional game stimulated the youngsters and that they played with more earnestness on the lots because they admired Babe Ruth.  We still admit that professional baseball is a stimulus to boys, but journalism has overfed it with space.  The Tribune is down to about a half column now for games in which the home teams play, which is justified parochialism, and to a bare statement of vital statistics regarding the other clubs.  That is enough.”

Other newspapers applauded the policy; surprisingly most didn’t cite corruption in baseball as the reason, but the rather, as The Baltimore Sun said because professional sports only provide “vicarious exercise.”  The Louisville Courier-Journal said watching baseball was even a threat to manhood:

“Two hours of inactivity in the grand stand or bleachers is not productive of muscle or sinew.  The same amount of time spent in tennis, golf, swimming or any number of games would be infinitely better for American manhood.”

Others found the new policy foolish.  The Portland Oregonian said:

The Chicago Tribune, which is regarded by its management, and doubtless by many of its readers, as the world’s greatest newspaper, has decided to blue-pencil professional baseball…The theory on which the sport page is built is that the public is entitled to what it wants…Telling the readers of sports that they should want something else, and will be given that something, is a decided innovation.”

The Duluth News-Tribune said facetiously:

“The fact that both teams (the Cubs and White Sox) are near tail-enders may not have anything to do with it.”

Then there was The Idaho Statesman which said The Tribune’s policy was a “meritorious undertaking,” but didn’t go far enough:

“There are a world of other professional sports not half as white as the Black Sox, that might come under the publicity axe with resulting good to the public…Horseracing is professional and it has produced a fine crop of crooks—more than baseball in its blackest days could possibly yield.  Our own so-called wild west sports have been placed in the professional class and everybody knows they are largely fake.  Wrestling hasn’t the whitest record in the world and prize fighting is anything but a Sunday school game.  Nobody ever got very much exercise out of any of these sports, except the participants and we are not sure that our citizenship is any sounder for having witnessed them.  The Tribune isn’t through with its job as we view the situation.”

The most prescient response was from The Montgomery (AL) Advertiser:

“We expect to see The Tribune gradually slipping back to its old ways.”

Ten days after the original policy was announced The Tribune declared victory, and revealed their real motive:

“An encouraging sign is the changing attitude of the press toward highly commercialized sport. The papers are coming to the conclusion they have been giving away millions of dollars’ worth of advertising to boost box office receipts for promoters who have no special regard for the public.”

But within weeks the “The World’s Greatest Newspaper” had, as The Advertiser predicted, begun “slipping back” to the way baseball had previously been covered.  By the beginning of the 1922 season, notwithstanding the lingering effects of the game’s greatest scandal, or no indication that Americans were getting any more exercise, baseball stories in The Tribune looked no different than stories that appeared before August of 1921.