George Sisler
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George Sisler

George Sisler
Sisler in 1915
First baseman / Manager
Born: (1893-03-24)March 24, 1893
Manchester, Ohio
Died: March 26, 1973(1973-03-26) (aged 80)
Richmond Heights, Missouri
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
June 28, 1915, for the St. Louis Browns
Last MLB appearance
September 22, 1930, for the Boston Braves
MLB statistics
Batting average.340
Home runs102
Runs batted in1,175
Managerial record218-241
Winning %.475
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Vote85.8% (fourth ballot)

George Harold Sisler (March 24, 1893 - March 26, 1973), nicknamed "Gorgeous George", was an American professional baseball first baseman and player-manager. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators and Boston Braves. He managed the Browns from 1924 through 1926.

Sisler played college baseball for the University of Michigan and was signed by the St. Louis Browns as a free agent in 1915. He won the American League batting title in 1920 and 1922. In 1920 he set the major league record for hits with 257 which stood for 84 years and had a batting average of .407[1] (the seventh highest after 1900). In 1922 he won the AL Most Valuable Player Award, he finished with a batting average of .420 which is the third highest batting average ever recorded after 1900. An attack of sinusitis in 1923 caused Sisler's play to decline, but he continued to play in the majors until 1930. After Sisler retired as a player, he worked as a major league scout and aide.

A two time batting champion, Sisler led the league in hits twice, triples twice, and stolen bases four times. He collected 200 or more hits six times in his career, and had a batting average of over .300 a total of 13 times throughout his career. His career batting average of .340 is the 16th highest of all time. Sisler was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Early life

Sisler was born in the unincorporated hamlet of Manchester (now part of the city of New Franklin, a suburb of Akron), Ohio.[2] His paternal ancestors were immigrants from Northern Germany in the middle of the 19th century. Manchester did not have a high school and when it was time to start, Sisler moved to Akron to live with his older brother so that he could attend school there.[3] Sisler was an athletic student and played baseball, basketball and football[4] in high school, but was more focused on baseball.[4] In 1910, when Sisler was a high school senior, his brother Efbert died of tuberculosis,[5] but Sisler was able to move in with a local family and finish school.[5][6]

In 1911, Sisler signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates to play minor league baseball in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League, but he never played in the league or earned any money[7] and instead played college ball for the University of Michigan. As a freshman pitcher, Sisler struck out 20 batters in seven innings during a 1912 game.[8] He lettered in baseball from 1913 to 1915.[9] At Michigan he played for coach Branch Rickey while earning a degree in mechanical engineering.[7] After he graduated from Michigan, Sisler sought legal advice from Rickey about the status of his contract with Pittsburgh. The three-time Vanity Fair All-American had become highly sought-after by major league scouts. Rickey talked to Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss about releasing Sisler from the contract he had signed as a minor, but Dreyfuss maintained his claim to Sisler. Rickey wrote to the National Commission, baseball's governing body, who ruled that the contract was illegal. Rickey, now managing the St. Louis Browns, signed Sisler to a contract worth $7,400 (equivalent to $189,309 in 2020).[7][10]

Major league career

On June 28, 1915, Sisler made his major league debut, entering as a pitcher in relief against the Chicago White Sox.[11] He pitched three scoreless innings and struck out two batters,[12] while at the plate he collected his first major league hit.[11] A few days later, on July 3, he pitched a complete game victory for his first major league start, in which he struck out nine batters but also walked nine.[12] It was after this start that Rickey decided to transition Sisler to first base.[13] On August 29, Sisler defeated Walter Johnson in a complete game 2-1 victory.[14][15] In 1916 Sisler transitioned fully to first base and played the position for 141 games.[1] His .305 batting average led the team, as did his hits (177), his 24 errors that year led the American League for first basemen.[1]

On August 11, 1917, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, Sisler recorded three hits in four at bats. Over the next 26 games he would record at least one hit and bat .422 throughout his 26 game hit streak.[16][17] Sisler led the team in most offensive categories[18] and his .353 batting average was second in the American League, behind Ty Cobb.[1] The Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed in May 1917, and with it, the draft was enacted in the offseason. Sisler's teammates Urban Shocker and Ken Williams were assigned Class 1 in the draft, placing them at the top of the draft eligibility list. Williams would play only two games in the 1918 season before being drafted. Sisler was listed as Class 4 much further down on the list. He then enlisted in the army, joining several major league players in a Chemical Warfare Service unit commanded by Rickey. In 1918 he played in only 114 games but was able to steal 45 bases, which led the league, and placed third in the American league with a .341 batting average.[1] Sisler was preparing to go overseas when World War I ended that November.[19]

1921 baseball card of Sisler

In 1920, Sisler played every inning of each game.[20] He stole 42 bases (second in the American League), collected a major league-leading 257 hits for an average of .407 and ended the season by hitting .442 in August and .448 in September.[1] His batting average was the highest ever for a 600+ at-bat performance. In breaking Ty 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. (Suzuki, however, collected his hits over 161 games during the modern 162-game season as opposed to 154 in Sisler's era. Suzuki had 704 at bats to Sisler's 631.) Sisler finished second in the AL in doubles and triples, as well as second to Babe Ruth in RBIs and home runs.

Jim Barrero of the Los Angeles Times asserts that Sisler's record was largely overshadowed by Ruth's 54 home runs that season. "Of course, Ruth's obliteration of the home run record drew all the attention from fans and newspapermen, while Sisler's mark was pushed to the side and perhaps left unappreciated during what was a golden age of pure hitters", Barrero wrote.[20] As his popularity increased, Sisler drew comparisons to Cobb, Ruth and Tris Speaker. Sisler, however, was much more reserved than those three stars. Writer Floyd Bell described Sisler as "modest, almost to a point of bashfulness, as far from egotism as a blushing debutante... Shift the conversation to Sisler himself and he becomes a clam."[21]

In 1922, Sisler hit 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 20th century, surpassed only by Nap Lajoie's .426 in 1901 and Rogers Hornsby's .424 in 1924. Sisler also led the AL in hits (246), runs (134), stolen bases (51), and triples (18). He was chosen as the AL's Most Valuable Player that year,[1] the first year an official league award was given, as the Browns finished second to the New York Yankees. Sisler's 1922 season is considered by many historians to be among the best individual all-around single-season performances in baseball history.[22]

A severe attack of sinusitis caused him double vision in 1923, forcing him to miss the entire season. He defied some predictions by returning in 1924 with a batting average over .300. Sisler later said, "I planned to get back in uniform for 1924. I just had to meet a ball with a good swing again, and then run. The doctors all said I'd never play again, but when you're fighting for something that actually keeps you alive - well, the human will is all you need."[7] Sisler never regained his previous level of play, though 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.[1]

Time cover, March 30, 1925

In 1928, the 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.

Sisler accumulated a .340 lifetime batting average over his 16 years in the majors and stole 375 bases during his career. He had 200+ hits in six seasons. He hit over .300 thirteen times, including two seasons in which he hit over .400; 1926 was the only full season in which Sisler's average was less than .300. He stole over 25 bases in every year from 1916 through 1922, peaking with 51 the last year and leading the league three times. Sisler holds team records (for the St. Louis Browns, and now the Orioles) for career batting average, triples, and stolen bases, as well as batting average, on-base percentage, hits, on-base plus slugging, and total bases in a season. In 1939, Sisler became one of the first entrants elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.[1] He also posted a career pitching record of 5-6 with a 2.35 earned run average in 24 career appearances.[1] He defeated Walter Johnson twice in complete-game victories.

Managerial record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
SLB 1924 152 74 78 .487 4th in AL - - - -
SLB 1925 153 82 71 .536 3rd in AL - - - -
SLB 1926 154 62 92 .403 7th in AL - - - -
Total 459 218 241 .475 0 0 -

Later life and legacy

After his playing career, Sisler reunited with Rickey as a special assignment scout and front-office aide with the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Sisler and Rickey worked with future Hall of Famer Duke Snider to teach the young Dodgers hitter to accurately judge the strike zone.[23] Sisler was part of a scouting corps that Rickey assigned to look for black players, though the scouts thought they were looking for players to fill an all-black baseball team separate from MLB. Sisler evaluated Jackie Robinson as a potential star second baseman, but he was concerned about whether Robinson had enough arm strength to play shortstop.[24] With the Pirates in 1961, Sisler had Roberto Clemente switch to a heavier bat. Clemente won the league batting title that season.[25]

Sisler's sons Dick and Dave were also major league players in the 1950s. Sisler was a Dodgers scout in 1950 when his son Dick hit a game-winning home run against Brooklyn to clinch the pennant for the Phillies and eliminate the second-place Dodgers. When asked after the pennant winning game how he felt when his son beat his current team, the Dodgers, George replied, "I felt awful and terrific at the same time."[26] A passage in Ernest Hemingway's 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea refers to Dick Sisler's long home run drives.[25] Another son, George Jr., served as a minor league executive and as the president of the International League.

Sisler also spent some time as commissioner of the National Baseball Congress.[27] He died in Richmond Heights, Missouri, in 1973, while still employed as a scout for the Pirates.

In 1999 editors at The Sporting News ranked Sisler 33rd on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players". Outside of St. Louis' Busch Stadium, there is a statue honoring Sisler. He is also honored with a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[28] In October 2004, Ichiro Suzuki broke Sisler's 84 year old hit record, collecting his 258th hit off of Texas Rangers pitcher Ryan Drese. Sisler's daughter Frances (Sisler) Drochelman and other members of his family were in attendance when the record was broken.[29] While in St. Louis for the 2009 All-Star game, Ichiro Suzuki visited Sisler's grave site.[30] Tarpon Springs, Florida honored George by naming the former spring training home of the St. Louis Browns "Sisler Field". The fields were later taken over by the local Little League teams, and are still in use.[31]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "George Sisler Statistics and History". Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ DeLorme. Ohio Atlas & Gazetteer. 7th ed. Yarmouth: DeLorme, 2004, p. 51. ISBN 0-89933-281-1.
  3. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 8
  4. ^ a b Huhn, David, pp. 9
  5. ^ a b Huhn, David, pp. 11
  6. ^ Lowenfish, Lee, pp. 53-55
  7. ^ a b c d Warburton, Paul, pp. 68-79
  8. ^ Cook, William, pp. 190
  9. ^ Ballew, Bill (2012). "Team spotlight: Maloney looks to build on Michigan's baseball tradition" (PDF). Baseball The Magazine. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 46
  11. ^ a b Huhn, David, pp. 49
  12. ^ a b "1915 Pitching Games Logs". Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 50
  14. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 54
  15. ^ "August 29, 1915 Game Log". Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "1917 Batting Game Logs". Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 65
  18. ^ "St. Louis Browns 1917 Batting". Retrieved 2019.
  19. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 73-74
  20. ^ a b Barrero, Jim (September 15, 2000). "Out of sight". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014.
  21. ^ Huhn, David, pp. 114
  22. ^ Kennedy, Kostya (March 14, 2011). The Streak. Sports Illustrated Magazine, Volume 14, No.ll, p. 64.
  23. ^ McDonald, William (2011). The Obits: The New York Times Annual 2012. Workman Publishing Company. p. 315. ISBN 978-0761169420.
  24. ^ Tygiel, Jules (1997). Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy. Oxford University Press. pp. 56-59. ISBN 0195106202.
  25. ^ a b Cushing, Rick (2010). 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates: Day by Day: A Special Season, an Extraordinary World Series. Dorrance Publishing Co. p. 380. ISBN 978-1434904980.
  26. ^ "Sisler vs. Sisler". Toledo Blade. October 2, 1950. p. 24.[dead link]
  27. ^ Stein, Fred (2002). And the Skipper Bats Cleanup: A History of the Baseball Player-manager, with 42 Biographies of Men who Filled the Dual Role. McFarland. pp. 162-166. ISBN 0786462671.
  28. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Archived from the original on October 31, 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  29. ^ " 1". October 1, 2005. Retrieved 2012.
  30. ^ Ichiro Suzuki pays respects at George Sisler's gravesite - ESPN
  31. ^

External links

Preceded by
Ty Cobb
Single season base hit record holders
Succeeded by
Ichiro Suzuki
Preceded by
Cliff Heathcote
Dave Bancroft
Hitting for the cycle
August 8, 1920
August 13, 1921
Succeeded by
George Burns
Dave Robertson
Preceded by
Eduard Benes
Cover of Time Magazine
March 30, 1925
Succeeded by
John Ringling

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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