He had plenty of stories to tell, no doubt, but Swede Risberg was apparently loathe to say much about his short, but eventful big league career.
Signed by Charlie Comiskey out of his lifelong home in northern California, Risberg was banned for life for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He lived until 1975, but rarely spoke about his four season big league career or his baseball travels that followed over parts of the 1920s and 30s.
In 1917, though, everything seemed possible. He was a hot prospect, big for a shortstop at the time with incredible range and speed. The Chicago White Sox were a powerhouse, en route to a championship.
An original photo from that rookie season is on the auction block this week.
RMY Auctions is offering the 8×10 image, taken during batting practice, sometime around July 3, 1917. It bears a photo service date stamp on the back. If the photo was taken that day, Risberg went 1-4 in a 5-1 win over the Tigers–all five runs having been driven in by Risberg’s teammates, Joe Jackson and Oscar ‘Happy’ Felsch. At the time, the talented Sox were cruising toward the pennant, some 20 games over .500 as they traveled from Cleveland to Detroit on a mid-season road trip.
Risberg’s struggles at the plate resulted in the loss of his starting job and he made only two pinch-hitting appearances in the World Series. Two years later, he helped orchestrate the scheme that resulted in the Sox throwing the series to the Reds in exchange for payouts from gamblers, a plan that revealed itself the following season.
The photo is one of precious few dating to Risberg’s rookie season in Chicago. The silver gelatin image also offers an intriguing mystery. Two players are seen in the background and the one walking toward the photographer appears to resemble Shoeless Joe.
The photo is one of over 500, including images of other Black Sox players, being offered in the auction, which closes Saturday night.