Thursday, January 13, 2011

At Home with the Browns

Hello. My name is Jeff and I’m a certified Brownsaholic.
Browns uniformDon’t ask me why. The star-crossed franchise hasn’t existed in its St. Louis form since 1953, when the club was sent packing to Baltimore to become birds. George Sisler may be the only Brown that your average baseball fan can name. And I’m from New England.  So why do I love reading anything I can get my eyes on about this largely forgotten team?

Is it the colors of those two handmade Cooperstown Ballcaps of mine, brown with orange trim and white with brown trim?  There’s just a warmth to them. Earthy, almost.  And the name Browns, rhyming with frowns and clowns, a built-in sadness I can empathize with. It certainly isn’t because of their uniform logo, which at times was either the knight Saint Louis on a horse or some kind of diabolical pixie.  Nor their talent, because they never won a 20th century championship, and their sole pennant in 1944 largely happened because every other roster in the league was emptied by the War.

The Browns were very unlike the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, the Giants leaving New York, the A’s leaving Philadelphia, or the Senators leaving Washington.  Those teams moved but their names went with them, or in the Senators’ case, returned in expansion form.  The Browns’ sorry legacy is forever embedded in what for many decades was baseball’s “other” two-team town, on the banks of the Mississippi.  All I know is that I’ve daydreamed about kicking back on a broiling 1930s afternoon at Sportsman’s Park with a lemonade, cigar, and 596 other fans, and that I’ve replayed three entire Strat-O-Matic seasons largely to see how Roy Cullenbine, Elam Vangilder and Baby Doll Jacobson would fare.

But the good news is: I’m not alone.

The St. Louis Browns Fan Club (or Historical Society, for long), has over three hundred members, 36 of them actual surviving Brownies. Club President Bill Rogers organizes yearly luncheons and dinners in St. Louis, complete with speakers and memorabilia exhibits, and is constantly looking to bring new and possibly younger members into the fold.  With Browns lore receding into the public mind a bit more each year, though, this is not an enviable task. Rogers is especially proud of his July banquet last year, when Bob Costas arrived unexpectedly to announce Tommy Lasorda as featured speaker in a last-minute coup.  (Lasorda is considered an “almost Brownie” merely for going to spring training in 1953 with the team.)

Thanks to Jeff Polman for the story.
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

David M. Sisler, former A.G. Edwards exec from baseball family, dies


David M. Sisler, a former A.G. Edwards executive who pitched for seven seasons in major league baseball and came from a well-known baseball family, died Sunday (Jan. 9, 2011) in St. Louis.

Sisler, 79, died from complications of prostate cancer, said his son David G. Sisler of Plano, Texas.

The Ladue resident was the last survivor of four children of Baseball Hall of Fame player George Sisler, the player nicknamed "Gorgeous George" who spent 12 of 15 seasons with the St. Louis Browns, twice hit over .400 in a season and long held the single-season hits record. Fellow Hall of Famer Ty Cobb once called him "the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer." George Sisler died in 1973.

Growing up in St. Louis in his father's long shadow, Sisler was a standout high school athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He continued playing basketball and baseball at Princeton, where he graduated magna cum laude.

"Sometimes he thought he was a better basketball player than baseball player," his son recalled.

But Sisler went on to play baseball as a righthanded pitcher from 1956 to 1962 for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators and Cincinnati Reds. Known as a power pitcher, he posted a 38-44 career record with a 4.33 ERA. In 1956, he was named the Red Sox rookie of the year by Boston baseball writers. He considered his best season to be with the 1960 Tigers, when he went 7-5 with a 2.48 ERA, said his son.

After baseball, he joined A.G. Edwards in St. Louis as a stockbroker. He rose to be the company's vice chairman over a three-decade career.

He was married for 54 years to Janet Sisler. He is survived by his wife, his son and three grandchildren.

His brother Dick Sisler, who played eight seasons in major league baseball, including time with the St. Louis Cardinals, died in 1998.

Another brother George Sisler Jr., a longtime minor league baseball executive, died in 2006.

His sister Frances Sisler Drochelman, of Frontenac, died last year. She was on hand as the family's representative for the 2004 game in Seattle when Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki broke Gorgeous George's 84-year-old record of most hits in a season.