George Sisler Is Not as Great Today?

Harold FriendChief Writer IJune 1, 2009

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 1:  Detail of a scoreboard after outfielder Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners tied George Sisler's 84-year-old record for hits in a single season, during the game against the Texas Rangers on October 1, 2004 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington.  In the first inning, Ichiro tied the Major League record for most hits in a season and broke the record in the third inning with a single - his 258th hit of the season. In the sixth, Suzuki got hit number 259.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

George Sisler set the record for most hits in a season in 1920 when he hit safely 257 times over a 154-game schedule. In 2004, Ichiro Suzuki set a new mark by getting 262 hits over the modern 162-game schedule.

George Sisler was one of the greatest players in the history of the game, a fact that some modern fans refuse to accept.

One of the Two Greatest Defensive First Basemen

Sisler, who started his career as a pitcher, is considered, with Hal Chase, one of the two greatest defensive first basemen ever.

George Sisler had a .340 lifetime average, but after suffering a sinus infection that cost him the 1923 season and affected his vision, he considered his career over, despite having some outstanding years with impaired vision.

George Hit 93 Points Higher Than the League Average

George Sisler’s first full season was 1916, a year in which the American League teams batted .248.

The 24-year-old Sisler batted .305, which was 57 points higher than the league.

From 1917-1919, Sisler’s combined batting average was .349 compared to the league’s .256, an incredible 93 points higher than the league.

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The Lively Ball

In 1920, baseball’s powers introduced a new, lively ball after some White Sox players didn’t try their hardest in the 1919 World Series.

With the new baseball, the American League’s batting average jumped from .268 in 1919 to .284 in 1920, the season in which George Sisler hit safely 257 times, batted .407, and had 86 extra base hits, including 19 home runs.

Only Babe Ruth hit more home runs that year. Sisler stole 42 bases and struck out 19 times in 631 official at bats. His .407 batting average was an unimaginable 123 points above the league’ batting average.

George Sisler batted .371 in 1921 and then in 1922, as his Browns came within a single game of winning the pennant, Sisler batted .420, or 135 points higher than the league. His three-year average was .400 (actually .399667). He had a 41-game consecutive game hitting streak that year.

Best All-Around First Baseman in History?

In an article on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s official site, research associate Gabriel Schecter writes that Sisler might have been the best all-around first baseman in baseball history, despite being overshadowed by Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx.

Sisler was a better baserunner than either, which is not to denigrate Gehrig, who was excellent on the bases, and as great as Gehrig was in the field, Sisler was better.

Optic Nerve Affects Career

Sisler was only 30 years old old when trouble arose.

His optic nerve became infected from sinusitis, forcing him to miss the entire 1923 season.

Sisler suffered from double vision but still played in 1924, batting .305. He never was again as dominant, but from 1924 until he retired in 1930, he still batted .320, and finished his career with a .340 average.

Only Bill Terry Has a Higher Lifetime Batting Average Among First Basemen

George Sisler was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1939. Among first baseman, only Bill Terry, another underrated and almost forgotten first baseman (Terry is the National League’s last .400 hitter with his .401 in 1930) has a higher lifetime batting average.

Sisler is one of many outstanding players whose career is slowly but surely fading away as the years pass. It is a shame.

References

Koppett, Leonard. "George Sisler, Baseball Star, Is Dead; Few Were Better Players." New York Times. 27 March 1973, p. 50.

Single Season Hit Record

www.baseball-reference.com