Dakota Datebook

Banned Black Sox Player, Swede Risberg

Thursday, March 21, 2013

 

On this date in 1931, “Swede” Risberg’s name showed up in a Bismarck Tribune newspaper article about a car accident near Harvey. One of the drivers, Pierce Scott, died when he was thrown from his vehicle.

Charles “Swede” Risberg was among the other involved in the accident who receive received minor bruises, and he was identified as a “former major league baseball star.”

Swede Risberg was indeed a former player, but his star had been tarnished by the infamous Black Sox scandal. The scandal involved the 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox, in which eight White Six players conspired with gamblers to throw the Series in return for a promised big payoff.

Word of the fix leaked out, and the eight White Sox players, including shortstop Risberg, were barred for life from professional baseball, becoming forever blemished as the Black Sox.

How did Swede Risberg come to North Dakota? Risberg was a “rangy six-footer out of San Francisco,” who had reached the Big Leagues at age 22 and played only three seasons for the White Sox before being banned in 1921. Baseball was his only real skill, and so Swede Risberg became a vagabond, playing in semi-professional leagues to make a living. Risberg played in Hibbing, Minnesota, in 1922; and in Rochester, Minnesota, from 1923-1924. He played for a Scobey, Montana, ballclub for the 1925 season, and then bounced around from Minnesota to South Dakota to Manitoba before joining Jamestown’s semi-professional team in 1929, under leadership of manager O.K. Butts.

Swede Risberg was a strong drawing card for Jamestown because of his fame, and fans got to see a major-league talent on the local diamond. Risberg played in Jamestown for two seasons, and the team had great success. In 1930, Risberg had a .443 batting average as Jamestown won 37 games and lost just 16.

Risberg lived in Jamestown with his wife, Mary. After the 1931 car accident, Swede Risberg moved away, to Sioux Falls for two years, and he eventually drifted west to California to operate a tavern. Risberg died in 1975, at age 81.

 

 

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

 

Sources: “Jamestown Man Is Auto Mishap Victim,” Bismarck Tribune, March 21, 1931, p. 1.

“Swede Risberg, Player Barred In ‘Black Sox’ Scandal, Dead,” New York Times, October 16, 1975, p. 42.

“Jamestown Gets Ready for 1930 Baseball Season,” Bismarck Tribune, March 19, 1930.

Red Smith, “Last of the Black Sox,” New York Times, November 2, 1975, p. 231.

Alan Muchlinski, After the Black Sox: The Swede Risberg Story (Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2005), p. 1-5, 67-79, 107-108.

“Hannaford Meets Enderlin; Leeds is Jamestown Rival,” Bismarck Tribune, August 17, 1929, p. 8.

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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