George Sisler

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George Sisler
George Sisler
George Sisler
Personal Info
Birth March 24, 1893, Manchester, Ohio
Death: March 26, 1973, Richmond Heights, Missouri
Professional Career
Debut June 28, 1915, St. Louis Browns
Team(s) As Player
St. Louis Browns(1915-1922, 1924-1927)
Washington Senators (1928)
Boston Braves (1928-1930)
HOF induction: 1939, St. Louis Browns
Career Highlights
American League MVP: 1922
[1]
  • Led the league in batting average: 1920 (.407), 1922 (.420)[1]
  • Led the league in runs scored: 1922 (134) [1]
  • Led the league in hits: 1920 (257), 1922 (246)[1]
  • Led the league in stolen bases: 1918 (45), 1921 (35), 1922 (51), 1927 (27)[1]
  • Lifetime batting average: .341[1]


George Harold Sisler (March 24, 1893 - March 26, 1973), nicknamed "Gorgeous George," was an American star left-handed first basemen in Major League Baseball (MLB). Ty Cobb called him "the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer." He is widely regarded as having been one of the greatest players in St. Louis Browns history and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Although his career ended in 1930, from 1920 until 2004, Sisler held the MLB record for most hits in a single season. He is also one of only three men (along with Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby) since 1900 to have a batting average over .400 more than once. In the 1920s, a team's typical baseball season was 152 games, without including World Series games.

An unheralded superstar of the 1920s, he was a versatile player: Initially a pitcher, he became a dazzling hitter (.340 lifetime average, batting over .400 twice) who later became an excellent first baseman and he was also a threat as a base stealer (he lead the league four times). He was one of the first 10 to to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1939). Afterward, he moved into management, and scouted (and gave batting training to) Jackie Robinson.

Contents

Early life

Sisler was born in the unincorporated hamlet of Manchester, Ohio, which is about 12 miles south of Akron, in Summit County, to Cassius Sisler and Mary Whipple. They were both graduates of Hiram College and he had an uncle who was the mayor of Akron.

He played college ball for coach Branch Rickey at the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. By 1915, as a senior, he was the outstanding college player in the country. He turned down a salary offer for $5,200 from Pittsburgh and signed with the Browns for $7,400.[2]

Sisler came into the major leagues as a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns in 1915. He signed as a free agent after the minor league contract he had signed as a minor four years earlier, and which the Pittsburgh Pirates had purchased, was declared void. The following year he switched to first base; like Babe Ruth, he was too good a hitter to be limited to hitting once every four days. He posted a record of 5-6 with a 2.35 earned run average in 24 career mound appearances, twice defeating Walter Johnson in complete game victories.

In 1918 Sisler joined the Chemical Corps (known at that time as the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) during World War I. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to Camp Humphries, Virginia. Also with CWS were Branch Rickey, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Perry Haughton (president of the Boston Bravces) were sent to France. Just as Sisler was preparing to deploy overseas, the armistice was signed on November 11. Sisler was subsequently discharged from the CWS.[3]

Career

Baseball Hall of Fame
George Sisler
is a member of
Baseball
Hall of Fame

In 1920, Sisler had a dream year. He not only played every inning of every game that season, but stole 42 bases (second in the American League), collected 257 hits for an average of .407, and ended the season by hitting .442 in August and .448 in September. In breaking Cobb's 1911 record for hits in a single season, Sisler established a mark that wasn't broken until 2004. In addition, Sisler finished second in the American League (AL) that year in doubles and triples, as well as second to Babe Ruth in RBIs and homers.

Sisler did even better in 1922, hitting safely in 41 consecutive games—an American League record that stood until Joe DiMaggio broke it in 1941. His .420 batting average is the third-highest of the twentieth century, surpassed only by Rogers Hornsby's .424 in 1924, and Nap Lajoie's .426 in 1901. He was chosen as the AL's Most Valuable Player that year, the first year an official league award was given. One of the rare first basemen who were also a threat on the basepaths, Sisler stole over 25 bases in every year from 1916 to 1922, peaking with 51 the last year and leading the league three times; he also scored an AL-best 134 runs, and hit 18 triples for the third year in a row.

1915 M101-5 George Sisler

In 1923, a severe attack of sinusitis caused him to see double, forcing him to miss the entire season. The inflamed sinuses put pressure on his eyes, and surgery was required. The surgery was performed in April, but Sisler had to wear dark glasses through the summer, and afterwards he always squinted to keep the light affecting his eyes at a minimum. Frustrated at the slow pace of recovery, Sisler began to blame his doctors for his condition, and he embraced Christian Science.[4]

In 1924, the veteran Sisler was back, having inked a deal to play and manage the team. The managerial responsibility and the lingering affects of sinusitis limited George to a .305 average in 151 games. The club finished with an identical record as it had posted the previous season. He managed the team for two more years, guiding the Browns to a third place finish in 1925, and 92 losses in 1926, before he resigned. In 1925, Sisler regained some of his batting luster, hitting .345 with 224 hits, but in '26, he hit a disappointing .290 in 150 games.

Sisler came into the 1927 season free of managerial responsibility. After a strong start, he tapered off, but still managed 201 hits, a .327 average, 97 runs batted in and led the AL in stolen bases for a fourth time. Even though he was 34 years old and his legs were beaten from years of punishment, Sisler's 7 stolen bases led the league. After Heinie Manush and Lu Blue (a switch-hitting first baseman) were acquired in a blockbuster deal in early December, Sisler was sold to the Washington Senators in a move extremely unpopular with St. Louis fans. He played just over a month with Washington, where he hit .245, before he was shipped to the Boston Braves. In his first look at National League pitching, Sisler hit a robust .340 with 167 hits in 118 games. That earned him two more seasons in the Hub City, where he hit .326 in 1929, and .309 in 1930.[5] In 1928, the St. Louis Browns sold Sisler's contract to the Washington Senators, who in turn sold the contract to the Boston Braves in May. After batting .340, .326 and .309 in his three years in Boston, he ended his major league career with the Braves in 1930, then played in the minor leagues.

n 1931, nearing his 38th birthday and receiving no offers from big league clubs, Sisler signed with Rochester of the International League. In 159 games for Rochester, Sisler batted .303. The following year, he took an assignment as manager of Shreveport/Tyler of the Texas League, finding time to play in 70 games and hit .287 with 17 steals at the age of 39. Sisler then retired as a manager and player.

Sisler posted a .340 lifetime batting mark in the big leagues, led the league in assists six times as a first baseman, and in putouts several times as well. He collected 2,812 hits, 425 doubles, 164 triples, 102 homers, 1,175 RBI, and 375 stolen bases. He had struck out only 327 times in his 15-year career. His abbreviated pitching mark stood at 5-6 with a 2.35 ERA in 111 innings.[6]

George Sisler died in Richmond Heights, Missouri, at age 80.

Legacy

Sisler's legacy was confirmed in 1999, when two significant polls were conducted. That year, Sisler received the 8th most votes of any First Baseman in the poll for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, a poll voted on by fans. Also in 1999, editors at the The Sporting News named Sisler the 33rd best player on their list of Baseball's 100 Greatest Players.

Sisler's sons, Dick and Dave, were also major league players in the 1950s; another son, George Jr., was played in the minor leagues and later was the International League president.

It was 84 years before Ichiro Suzuki broke Sisler's record for hits in a season by getting 262 hits over the modern 162 game schedule.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Baseball Reference Retrieved June 20, 2007.
  2. Thedeadballera.com, George Sisler, Baseball Star, Is Dead. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  3. Encyclopedia.com, Remembering baseball hall of famers who served in the Chemical Corps. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  4. Michael Meckler, Review of The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  5. George Sisler Thebaseballpage.com. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  6. The Baseball Page, George Sisler. Retrieved December 22, 2007.

References

  • Huhn, Rick. 2004. The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826215556
  • Sisler, George. 1954. Sisler on Baseball; a Manual for Players and Coaches. New York: D. McKay Co.
  • Sisler, George. 1988. How to Raise Your Batting Average. Horton Pub. Co. ISBN 0944786243
  • Sisler, George. 1934. The Knack of Batting and how to Select and Care for your Bat. Louisville, KY: Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Inc.

External links

Articles

Preceded by:
Ty Cobb
American League Batting Champion
1920
Succeeded by:
Harry Heilmann
Preceded by:
Harry Heilmann
American League Batting Champion
1922
Succeeded by:
Harry Heilmann
Preceded by:
Eddie Collins
American League Most Valuable Player
1922
Succeeded by:
Babe Ruth
Preceded by:
Jimmy Austin
St. Louis Browns Manager
1924-1926
Succeeded by:
Dan Howley
Preceded by:
Ty Cobb
Single season base hit record holders
Succeeded by:
Ichiro Suzuki


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