George Sisler

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1982 TCMA Baseball's Greatest Hitters #22 George Sisler

George Harold Sisler
(Gorgeous George)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1939

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Sisler in his University of Michigan uniform

"He was poetry in motion, the perfect player." - Frank Frisch

George Harold Sisler (March 24, 1893 - March 26,1973), nicknamed "Gorgeous George," was one of the greatest fielding first basemen of all time. He set hitting records which no one has equalled in the last eighty years. Ty Cobb called him "the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer." He is widely regarded as having been the greatest player in St. Louis Browns history. Born in Manchester, OH which is about 12 miles south of Akron, OH in Summit County and having played college ball for coach Branch Rickey at the University of Michigan, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, 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 games victories.

Hit Machine[edit]

In 1920, Sisler not only played every inning of each game, but stole 42 bases (second in the AL), collected 257 hits for a batting 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 which stood until Ichiro Suzuki broke the record with 262 hits in 2004, earning his first batting title in the process. However, Suzuki was unable to break Sisler's mark of 257 hits within 154 games which was the length of a complete season during Sisler's era and instead needed the full 162 games to hit safely 262 times in 2004. In the same season Sisler had 257 hits, he was also second in the AL for hitting doubles and triples. He was also second in baseball to Babe Ruth in RBI's and homers that year.

Sisler did even better in 1922, hitting safely in 41 consecutive games - an American League record that stood until Joe DiMaggio broke it with 56 games in 1941. His .420 batting average that year is the third-highest of the 20th Century, surpassed only by Rogers Hornsby's .424 in 1924 and Nap Lajoie's .422 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.

Sinusitis and Sold to Senators[edit]

U.S. postage stamp depicting George Sisler.

In 1923, however, a severe attack of sinusitis caused him to see double, forcing him to miss the entire season. While Sisler continued to hit over .300 after he returned in 1924, he never regained the level of brilliance he had enjoyed before. Even so, he continued to hit over .300 in six of his last seven seasons, and led the AL in stolen bases for a fourth time in 1927. He was the Browns' player-manager in 1924, 1925, and 1926.

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, where he became a teammate of Rogers Hornsby. 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. He accumulated a .340 lifetime batting average over his fifteen years in the majors. He stole 375 bases during his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. Outside of St. Louis' Busch Stadium there is a statue honoring Sisler. He was a coach for the Boston Braves in 1930 and many years later (1959) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sisler's sons, Dick and Dave, were also major league players in the 1950s. Another son, George Jr., served as a minor league executive.

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

In 1999, he ranked Number 33 on Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2010, he made the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL MVP (1922)
  • 2-time AL Batting Average Leader (1920 & 1922)
  • AL At-Bats Leader (1920)
  • AL Runs Scored Leader (1922)
  • 2-time AL Hits Leader (1920 & 1922)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (1920)
  • 2-time AL Singles Leader (1920 & 1922)
  • 2-time AL Triples Leader (1921 & 1922)
  • 4-time AL Stolen Bases Leader (1918, 1921, 1922 & 1927)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1920-1922 & 1925)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (1920-1922 & 1925)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 6 (1920-1922, 1925, 1927 & 1929)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1922)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1939

1921 1922 1923
No Award George Sisler Babe Ruth

Preceded by
Jimmy Austin
St. Louis Browns Manager
Succeeded by
Dan Howley

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1924 St. Louis Browns American League 74-78 4th St. Louis Browns
1925 St. Louis Browns American League 82-71 3rd St. Louis Browns
1926 St. Louis Browns American League 62-92 7th St. Louis Browns
1932 Shreveport Sports/Tyler Sports Texas League 26-51 -- none replaced by Walter Morris (7-10) on June 29

Further Reading[edit]

  • University of Michigan: "Baseball", The Michiganensian, Volume 20, 1916, pp. 307-312. [1]
  • "Baseball", The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer, March 15, 1918, p. 270. [2]
  • (AP): "George Sisler Greatest Player: St. Louis Star Awarded American League Magnate's Cup Yesterday", The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 22, 1922, p. 11. [3]
  • (AP): "George Sisler Most Valuable Player In Major League; Great Brown First Baseman Receives Award for His Work Which He Aims to Keep For Some Time" The Deseret News, September 22, 1922, p. 2. [4] [5]
  • (AP): "George Sisler nears baseball trail end: Released From Rochester and Has No Plans for Next Year", The Youngstown Vindicator, October 15, 1931, p. 2. [6]
  • "Take a tip from George Sisler", Boys' Life, May 1934, p. 39. [7]
  • (AP): "George Sisler Named Czar of Semi-Pros", The Tuscaloosa News, January 31, 1939, p. 8. [8]
  • (AP): "No Tenth Man for George Sisler", The Daytona Beach Morning Journal, January 9, 1941, p. 4. [9]
  • (INS): "Sisler Will Hail Record: Former Brown Star Pulls for DiMaggio to Smash Record", The Youngstown Vindicator, June 29, 1941, p. D-1. [10]
  • Judson Bailey: ["George Sisler Taken On by Rickey as Chief Scout", The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 22, 1943, p. 7. [11]
  • J. Roy Stockton: "George Sisler", Baseball Digest, February 1953, pp. 79-81. [12]
  • Jack Hernon: "Roamin' Around: The Man Across the Table", The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 18, 1958, p. 11. [13]
  • Tex Maule: "The Thinking Hitter", Sports Illustrated, Volume 22, Issue 22, June 5, 1961, pp. 56-58. [14]
  • George Sisler (as told to Lyall Smith): "The First Baseman Who Outpitched Walter Johnson: The day George Sisler beat his idol", Baseball Digest,September 1965, pp. 79-81. [15]
  • (UPI): "Baseball Great George Sisler Dies", The Pittsburgh Press, March 27, 1973, p. 30. [16]
  • "Nevadan George Lyons Recalls Sisler Plays", The Nevada (MO) Daily Mail, March 27, 1973, p. 8. [17]
  • Paul Warburton: "George Sisler", in The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20, 2000, pp. 93-97.
  • Rick Huhn, Jim Provenzale and David A. Goss: "George Sisler: A Close Look at Vision Problems that Derailed Him", in SABR: The Baseball Research Journal, Volume 37, 2008, pp. 18-20.

Related Sites[edit]

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