Two grandsons of Hall of Famer George Sisler were the featured guests at a meeting of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. 

By Mike Thomas, Special to

Like Babe Ruth and Stan Musial, St. Louis Browns Hall of Famer George Sisler started his career as a left-handed pitcher. In fact, during his rookie season in 1915, he twice beat Walter Johnson.

Ed Wheatley of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society said Johnson was Sisler’s favorite player growing up. Because he was such a great hitter, Browns manager Branch Rickey started playing him at first base and outfield on days he was not pitching. By 1916, Sisler became the Browns full-time first baseman.

“Branch Rickey was Sisler’s mentor all the way back to college at the University of Michigan,” Wheatley said. “It was Rickey who had Sisler follow him to St. Louis to play for the Browns. After playing, Sisler followed Rickey to Brooklyn and Pittsburgh where he was general manager.”

Rickey left the Browns to become the Cardinals general manager, but Sisler developed into one of the league’s best players during the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. He batted over .400 twice and won the 1922 American League MVP.

During the St. Louis Browns Fan Club’s roundtable discussion on Saturday two of Sisler’s grandson’s fondly recalled their grandfather. While they never saw him play, both said they went to ballgames and spring training with Sisler when he was a scout.

“Our grandfather, with very few exceptions, never told stories about his play,” Peter Drochelman said. “We had to find out about how good of a baseball player he really was through books, magazines and newspaper articles.”

When Ichiro Suzuki was on the verge of breaking Sisler’s single season hits record in 2004, he requested that Sisler’s surviving relatives be present during the occasion. Sisler had held the record for 84 years before Suzuki broke it.

“When he broke the record and after being congratulated by his teammates, he came up to our box,” Drochelman said. “He came up to my mom and said in English, Thank you for coming to Seattle.’ My mom shook his hand and patted him on the shoulders and just said, ‘I think my father would have thought this was great that such a fine young man broke my record.’”

Suzuki was voted in as the starting right fielder for the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. During his visit, Drochelman said Suzuki went to Sisler’s grave site with his wife and left a nice bouquet of flowers in a respectful display.

During Sisler’s career, he was known as “Gentleman George.” Bo Drochelman recalled a story that his uncle, Dick Sisler, who also played in the major leagues, told him about Ty Cobb.

“You know the reputation of Ty Cobb, that he was vicious,” Drochelman said. “But whenever my grandma was at the ballpark when he was playing the Browns, Mr. Cobb would always come to my mother and grandmother in the stands, and was the ultimate gentleman to her, asking how she was doing.”

Dick Sisler is most well-known for hitting a pennant-clinching home run on the final day of the season against the Brooklyn Dodgers which gave the 1950 “Whiz Kids” Phillies their first pennant in 35 years. Four years earlier, he won a World Series with the Cardinals as a part-time first baseman and outfielder.

Peter Drochelman said George Sisler was present at that 1950 game and watched his son hit the game-winning home run while working as a scout for the Dodgers.

“My grandpa talked about it different times on how he couldn’t root against Brooklyn, but wanted his son to do well,” Bo Drochelman said.

While working as a scout for the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates, Sisler helped teach hitting to Hall of Fame players such as Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Roberto Clemente.

“He was literally a mechanical engineering major at Michigan and had this exceptional eye for analyzing swings,” Bo Drochelman said, “almost as if he had an understanding of biomechanics, which is now studied by all professional sports.”

Peter Drochelman explained one of the reasons Sisler does not get as much attention as Ruth or Cobb was because of his humility and the fact Sisler did not want to be the center of attention.

“We grew up a block away from our grandparent’s house, so we got to run over there and eat our grandmother’s cookies,” Peter Drochelman said. “There were awards up on the wall behind their chairs in their family room, and it was my suspicion is those were put up there by my grandmother. For my grandfather, that would have been immodest to put all those things up on the wall.”