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The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great

Overview

“Gorgeous George” Sisler, a left-handed first baseman, began his major-league baseball career in 1915 with the St. Louis Browns. During his sixteen years in the majors, he played with such baseball luminaries as Ty Cobb (who once called Sisler “the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer”), Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby. He was considered by these stars of the sport to be their equal, and Branch Rickey, one of baseball’s foremost innovators and talent scouts, once said that in 1922 Sisler was “the greatest player ...

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The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great

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Overview

“Gorgeous George” Sisler, a left-handed first baseman, began his major-league baseball career in 1915 with the St. Louis Browns. During his sixteen years in the majors, he played with such baseball luminaries as Ty Cobb (who once called Sisler “the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer”), Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby. He was considered by these stars of the sport to be their equal, and Branch Rickey, one of baseball’s foremost innovators and talent scouts, once said that in 1922 Sisler was “the greatest player that ever lived.”

During his illustrious career he was a .340 hitter, twice achieving the rare feat of hitting more than .400. His 257 hits in 1920 is still the record for the “modern” era. Considered by many to be one of the game’s most skillful first basemen, he was the first at his position to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet unlike many of his peers who became household names, Sisler has faded from baseball’s collective consciousness.

Now in The Sizzler, this “legendary player without a legend” gets the treatment he deserves. Rick Huhn presents the story of one of baseball’s least appreciated players and studies why his status became so diminished. Huhn argues that the answer lies somewhere amid the tenor of Sisler’s times, his own character and demeanor, the kinds of individuals who are chosen as our sports heroes, and the complex definition of fame itself.

In a society obsessed with exposing the underbellies of its heroes, Sisler’s lack of a dark side may explain why less has been written about him than others. Although Sisler was a shy, serious sort who often shunned publicity, his story is filled with its own share of controversy and drama, from a lengthy struggle among major-league moguls for his contractual rights—a battle that helped change the structure of organized baseball forever—to a job-threatening eye disorder he developed during the peak of his career and popularity.

By including excerpts from Sisler’s unpublished memoir, as well as references to the national and international events that took place during his heyday, Huhn reveals the full picture of this family man who overcame great obstacles, stood on high principles, and left his mark on a game he affected in a positive way for fifty-eight years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Some outstanding baseball players are lauded with praise, while others are vilified. But some, like George "The Sizzler" Sisler, are simply forgotten. Sisler (1893-1973) made his name as a phenomenal hitter and first baseman playing for the now-defunct St. Louis Browns from 1915 to 1927. He was a versatile player: a skilled pitcher, a fearsome hitter (.340 lifetime average, batting over .400 twice) and, later, an excellent first baseman, the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (1939). Afterward, he moved into management and scouted (and gave batting training to) Jackie Robinson. So why is he barely known today? As Huhn demonstrates, Sisler was a quiet and gentlemanly Christian Scientist averse to bragging, with a quiet home life essentially free of scandal. Sisler's astonishing numbers were apparently not enough to ensure he'd be known to posterity outside of the realm of stats hounds. Unfortunately, Huhn, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, is hardly the guy to bring Sisler to light, as his recounting of the man's life is far from thrilling. Huhn dutifully hits all the major moments of Sisler's life but without much punch, ladling dollops of historical context without much rhyme or reason. The result is an unexceptional book about an exceptional athlete. 34 photos. (Nov.) Forecast: Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki just broke Sisler's record of most hits in a season (257). With Sisler back in the news, at least among baseball fanatics, the book could see a minor bump in sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826220134
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Series: SPORTS & AMERICAN CULTURE Series , #1
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 965,227
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Huhn, an attorney and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), lives in Westerville, Ohio. In August 2001, he was encouraged by George Sisler, Jr., to write his late father’s story and was given the enthusiastic cooperation of the Sisler family in writing this biography.

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