George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns in 1915, his rookie season. One of the finest examples of the great portrait work of Paul Thompson.
“Gorgeous George” was more than just a photogenic subject for the camera; coached by Branch Rickey in his college days at Michigan, and signed by Rickey as then the GM for the Browns, he became one of the best first basemen of his era. A 2-time .400 hitter in the American League (Ty Cobb the only other player to achieve that feat), he smacked 257 hits in 1920, an MLB record that would last into the next century (while he played in every inning of every game that season), and was awarded the very first AL MVP, in 1922, after one of the best seasons in history – he batted .420 (third all-time highest mark in the modern era), also leading the league in runs, hits (of course), triples and stolen bases, and had a 41-game hitting streak, broken by DiMaggio in 1941 but still good enough for 5th all-time. And for good measure, coming up as a pitcher, he outdueled Walter Johnson not once, but twice, in 1915 (a 2-1 CG victory on August 29 being one of the greatest thrills of his career).
Unfortunately, a bout with sinusitis and resulting double vision caused him to miss all of 1923, and while he returned in 1924, he still performed well, hitting over .300 in all but one of his remaining seasons, but never reached the heights of his earlier years.
His baseball legacy was far from over, however, as he reconnected with Rickey after his playing career and as a Dodgers scout helped bring Jackie Robinson to the major leagues, and while in player development helped advance the careers of Duke Snider, and later with Rickey and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente. Two of George’s sons, Dick and Dave Sisler, also played in the majors in the 1950’s.
Sisler, arguably the best St. Louis Browns player of all-time, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, and while he was overshadowed by others such as Ty Cobb, and later Ruth and Gehrig, those “gorgeous” stats have earned him a rightful place among the game’s elite.
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