On Jan. 1, 1927, Charles “Swede” Risberg testified that in 1917, the Chicago White Sox “bought” four games from the Detroit Tigers for $1,100. As repayment for their cooperation, the White Sox”sloughed” an series in 1919 to the Tigers in an attempt to help the Bengals finish in third place.
On Jan. 5, 1927, the players accused of involvement had their chance to respond to the charges. Twenty-nine players denied the charges before Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis. All refuted the accusation that any games were fixed, or that the Tigers had received $1,100.
It was the word of 29 against the word of one, and that one had been banned from baseball for life for his involvement in throwing the 1919 World Series. Not even Buck Weaver, who, like Risberg, was banned from baseball for life, confirmed any of his former teammats’ allegations.
Judge Landis grilled each witness, but there was no evidence presented to support Risberg’s charges. Each player stuck to the same story, and answered each of Landis’ questions in a similar manner.
Question: “Had there been a pool of $1,100 or $1,200 raised to reward the Detrot pitchers?”
Answer: “Certainly, but it was not to reward them for “sloughing” two double-headers on Sept. 2 and 3. The money had been raised as a gift to the Detroit pitchers for beating the Boston Red Sox in the latter part of September, 1917.”
It was 29 against one, and the 29 presented a united front. Donie Bush shook a fist in Risberg’s face, and Eddie Collins, with clenched teeth, said Risberg was a liar.
Risberg’s wasn’t moved. At the end of the hearing, he declared, “They can call me what they want to, but I told the truth.”
Risberg couldn’t prove that the players had fixed the games, but if they were true, he had incriminated himself when he admitted, under oath, that he was part of the conspiracy when he played out of position in two games against the Tigers near the end of the 1919 season.
Unless Risberg were stupid, why would he make such an admission?
The Chicago White Sox won the 1917 pennant by a margin of nine games over the second place Boston Red Sox, but entering play on Sept. 2, the Sox from Chicago led the Sox from Boston by only three and one-half games.
The White Sox swept consecutive double-headers from the Tigers, and at the close of play on Sept. 3, the White Sox had increased their margin over Boston to six and one-half games.
On Sept. 25, 1919, the Detroit Tigers were tied with the New York Yankees for third place. Detroit was in Chicago to play the White Sox, who had clinched the pennant, the final three games of the season. The White Sox lost all three games.
There is no way to prove what happened, but circumstances increase the possibility that Swede Risberg was telling the truth.
The problem s that no hard evidence exists, and in 1927, when Commissioner Landis held the hearings, more than circumstantial evidence was needed to prove guilt. That is no longer true today.
By JAMES B. HARRISON.Special to The New York Times. (1927, January 6). 29 BASEBALL MEN CONFRONT RISBERG, DENY HIS CHARGES :Cobb and Collins Among Those Who Call Story of Sloughing Games in 1917 a Lie. ACCUSER IS THREATENED Landis Forced to Intervene as Donie Bush Shakes Fist in Risberg’s Face. WEAVER WON’T BACK STORY Expelled Player Asks Commissioner for Reinstatement — Hearing Goes On Again Tomorrow. 29 PLAYERS HEAP DENIALS ON RISBERG. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 97222997)