Swedes in the Major League.
Sweden has provided American sports with its share of distinguished professional athletes. Annika Sörenstam, winner of 72 Ladies Pro Golf Association (LPGA) tournaments and the legendary Björn Borg and his eleven Grand Slam singles tennis titles between 1974 and 1981 are two that immediately come to mind.
by Doug Dowell
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun Newspaper joked in 2003 that the National Hockey League should refer to that particular season as the “The Swede Season” due to the dominance of three Swedes: Niklas Lidström, Peter Forsberg and Markus Näslund.
Success in golf, tennis and ice hockey should come as no surprise after all they are three of the most popular sports in Sweden. But Sweden’s influence has not been limited to the golf links, hockey rinks and tennis courts. Interestingly, Sweden also has a connection to America’s national pastime of baseball?
Surprisingly, there have been a handful of Swedes, four to be exact, that have played at the highest professional level, Major League Baseball. Organized professional baseball has existed in the United States since 1876 with the formation of the National League. However, the “modern” game is generally considered to have its beginnings traced back to the turn of the century, most notably with the introduction of the World Series (a seven game series which decides the world champion) in 1903. Sweden’s mark on professional baseball dips into both the early years of professional baseball and the contemporary or “modern” game.
Charles Hallström was the first to play professionally. Hallström was born in Jönköping, Sweden on January 22, 1864. Known as the “Swedish Wonder” in baseball circles, his major league career was short-lived. His career began and ended on September 23, 1885 as he pitched a complete game (nine innings) for the Providence Grays. The Grays lost that particular game and Hallström’s numbers are indicative of why he never pitched in the major leagues again. While completing the game he allowed sixteen runs on eighteen hits, three of which were homeruns.
Charles Bold was born October 27, 1894 in Karlskrona, Sweden and had a slightly longer career than his fellow countryman Hallström, four days longer to be exact. Bold made his major league debut on August 24, 1914 with the St. Louis Browns and finished his career on August 28, 1914. While with the St. Louis ball club for those five days Charles “Dutch” Bold appeared in two games getting one at bat. Unfortunately, his one at bat culminated in a strikeout. Defensively, he appeared at first base and had two chances to handle batted balls. He was unable to field one successfully and was credited with an error.
Born August 26, 1895 in Gustavsberg, Sweden, Axel Lindström was the third Swede to play professionally. His pitching career lasted just as long as fellow countryman and predecessor Charles Hallström. On October 3, 1916, Axel Lindström pitched his one and only game in the major leagues. The twenty-one year old right-hander pitched four innings of relief for the Philadelphia Athletics. In his debut Axel gave up four hits, two runs, hit one batsman and struck out one. Although off to a promising start, The Philadelphia Athletics Ball Club nor any other major league team retained his baseball services again.
Erick “Swat” Erickson, the most successful
The most recent Swede to play professional baseball in the Major Leagues was Erick “Swat” Erickson. Born in Göteborg, Sweden on March 13, 1895, Erickson enjoyed the most prosperous and successful career of his Swedish contemporaries. He lasted seven years in Major League Baseball and pitched for three different teams.
On October 6, 1914, the nineteen year old Erickson started his major league career by pitching for the New York Giants. That day he pitched five innings, striking out three and walking three but was saddled with the loss. Out of the major leagues in 1915, he resurfaced in 1916 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. From 1916 to 1919 he pitched in twenty-three games for Detroit earning four victories and seven defeats.
During the 1919 season he was traded by Detroit to the Washington Senators where he finished his career. Between 1919 and 1922 Erickson experienced the most activity of his professional career. He played in 121 games for the Washington ball club earning thirty victories and forty-nine losses. For his entire pitching career Erickson won 34 games, lost 57 and appeared in 145 games.
The four Swedish born players may not hold any baseball records or bring national acclaim to their country, but their names and birth places appear forever in the chronicles of Major League baseball.
Baseball may be growing in Sweden today. For an update on more recent events, see http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/sports/1470/