by Frank Hyde
February 11, 1950
Part 3 of 4
32 Wins for 'Frisco Topped Swat's Career
Swat Erikson's 20-game winning splurge in 40 days tossed him into the 1916 baseball limelight, so when the ill-fated Federal League was formed Manager John Gansil of Rochester approached the big right-hander with an offer from officials of the "outlaw" circuit. Swat accepted but never reported and soon found himself on the way to Detroit on a straight cash deal.
He played a few games as a Tiger and was sent to San Francisco, where he tolled during the 1916 and 1917 seasons, winning 32 and losing 17 the latter year. The records prove the Jamestown man had to cop those 32 victories the hard way. They were mostly toughies - 3 to 2, 2 to 1, 1 to 0, etc. He appeared in 61 games and when the war broke out the old soup bone was beginning to feel the strain of those rugged campaigns at Rochester and 'Frisco.
Goes to Washington
The Swede (they never called him Swat in the majors) donned a new uniform-one patterned by Uncle Sam. Following hostilities he reported back to the Tigers but was traded to Washington in the deal that brought Doc Ayers and Eddie Ainsmith to the Bengals.
Clark Griffith now president of the Senators was pilot when Swat reported to the team that was to be "home" for the next 14 years. During his tenure at Washington-1918 through 1932 the Nats had two other managers. They were George McBride and Clyde Milan.
During those years Swat faced just about every big name in the American League. One day he grooved one to Babe Ruth. The Bambino laid on it and to this day Swat insists it would have been the longest home run in the Babe's great career of distance hitting.
Caldwell Gets a Break
"But there was a terrific wind blowing in from the outfield. It just stopped that ball almost dead as it zoomed 'way up there. Our outfielder camped right against the fence and took it. What a holler they made. The Babe insisted it had been out of the park and was blown back by the gale."
At another time he and Ray Caldwell, also a Jamestown man and hero of Cleveland's great pennant rush in 1920, struck out but lost the ball game. Ray was playing the outfield and pinch hitting when he wasn't pitching. He came in as a pincher against Swat, took a called third strike that looked so good he voluntarily headed for the bench. The ump said it was a ball, however, and Ray bounded the next pitch down the first base line for a single that scored the winning run from third.
Johnson His Choice
Who was the greatest pitcher of all time?
Ask big Swat and there isn't a moment's hesitation. "Walter Johnson, of course. He threw a sidearm at you that came in rising. His speed and that side-arm delivery made him a peerless performer." Jim Thorpe, the immortal Indian of Carlisle football fame, was with the Giants when Erickson reported back in the early days of his career "If he could have hit a curve he would have become an all-time great in baseball too," Swat recalls. "He had the power and he was the fastest thing I have ever seen on the bases, but the boys just wafted a lazy curve in around his hands and he was sucker meat."