by Frank Hyde
February 8, 1950
Part 2 of 4
Lowly Lemon Is Cureall; Swat Wins 20 in 40 Days
John McGraw's Giants had won National League pennants in 1912 and '13 but bowed to the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. Irked over his failure to grab the classic with either of his league champs, the "Little Giant" was a driving taskmaster. He had such stars as Christy Matthewson, Larry Doyle, Fred Merkle, Art Fletcher, Hans Lobert and Milton Stock.
In this setting, Swat made his debut facing the Phils.
In one of the late innings, a Phil runner moved off second as Swat cut down a relay. The big chucker "dared" him with a fake throw, but the crafty Phil runner broke for third. The throw bounded into Stock's hands and right out again. The runner was safe and it turned out to be the ball game. McGraw, always a sore loser, laid it on the line pointedly. "Son, never bluff in this game. Throw that ball."
It was a lesson Erickson never forgot.
"McGraw was a tough cuss," Swat recalls today. "But he was fair and firm and his players respected him."
The following spring the Giants moved into Marshall, Tex. For spring training and it was there the first of two tough breaks caught up with the Jamestown Swede. A line drive hit back through the box by one of his old Dallas team mates in an exhibition game fractured the index finger of his pitching hand. The break was in the socket and it refused to heal.
One day McGraw called Swat into a huddle and said, "We are going to send you to Waco, Tex. to an expert."
It proved to be a fruitless trip, however, for the rebroken and reset digit remained crooked and painful and finally led to a railroad ticket to Rochester.
"Miracle of Baseball"
Swat was just going along, breaking about even with the Red Wings, when a fan stopped him one day. "Want to cure that finger?" he asked. "Just cut a hole through a lemon and slide it right over the finger and leave it on all night."
Ready to try anything, Swat followed instructions. The following day the wrinkled and shrunken member was removed from its strange cast. "You won't believe it, but it never bothered me again," Swat revealed recently, still amazed at the success of the simple cure.
Rochester sold several players during the summer of 1915 and as a result the Red Wing pitching corps consisted of Swat, Eddie Palermo, Bugsy Hersch and Bob Hinkey. Hersch and Hinkey had lame arms, so the durable Jamestown Swede found himself on the firing line almost every other day.
Years after Clark Shaughnessy, President of the International League, referred to Swat's performances during those shorthanded days as "a miracle of baseball."
He actually won 20 games in 40 days at one stretch!
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