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george harold sisler

George Sisler

[sis-ler]
For the minor league baseball executive, see George Sisler, Jr. For the Medal of Honor recipient, see George K. Sisler.

George Harold Sisler (March 24, 1893 - March 26, 1973), nicknamed "Gorgeous George," was an American baseball player who played Major League Baseball (MLB) for 15 seasons, primarily as a first Baseman with the St. Louis Browns. Although his career ended in , from until , Sisler held the MLB record for most hits in a single season.

The Baseball Hall of Fame elected Sisler in . He is one of 14 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame from the Baltimore Orioles' years as the St. Louis Browns.

Fans and sports writers reaffirmed Sisler's legacy in , 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 sponsored by MasterCard but voted on by fans. Also in , editors at the The Sporting News' named Sisler the 33rd best player on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players".

Life and career

Born in the unincorporated hamlet of Manchester (now part of the city of New Franklin, a suburb of Akron, Ohio) 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.

In 1920 Sisler not only played every inning of each game, 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 which stood until Ichiro Suzuki broke the record with 262 hits in 2004. Suzuki, however, collected his hits over 159 games during the modern 162-game season (as opposed to 154 in Sisler's era). Also in 1920, Sisler finished second in the AL in doubles and triples, as well as second to Babe Ruth in RBIs and home runs.

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.

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.

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. 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 Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. Outside of St. Louis' Busch Stadium there is a statue honoring Sisler.

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

George Sisler died in Richmond Heights, Missouri, at age 80 while still employed as a scout for the Pirates.

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