December 9, 2004
Review: “The Sizzler”
by Steve Lombardi
Baseball history aficionados are familiar with many fun facts that stand out along the baseball timeline. For example, many fans of the game know that:
Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey had a lengthy and significant relationship.
Tom Seaver's first professional contract was voided by baseball officials.
Dave Winfield went straight from college to play in the major leagues - totally bypassing the minor leagues.
Babe Ruth started out in the big leagues as a pitcher - and then became a full-time position player after briefly splitting time between the mound and the field.
John Smoltz survived a severe injury and year-long absence from playing to resume a stellar career.
Rickey Henderson went to play in the minor leagues after a long and distinguished major league resume.
Charlie Lau, once done playing in the majors, became a hitting coach renown for helping shape the career of a Hall of Fame batter.
Bob Boone, himself being a big leaguer of vast tenure, had two sons that went on to play major league baseball.
But, how many hardball fans (even those zealous ones) would be able to name a single player who did all of these things in his lifetime - was a long-time close running mate of Rickey, had a contract situation when first turning pro, went straight from college to the bigs, converted at the major league level from pitcher to hitter, had a comeback after missing a season due to a considerable injury, played in the minors after a long and remarkable stay in baseball's highest leagues, became a batting coach influencing eventual Hall of Famers, and fathered two big league players?
Those fans who have read Rick Huhn's fine book "The Sizzler - George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great" would be able to answer that question in a heartbeat - because George Sisler is that player.
With "The Sizzler," Huhn victoriously enlightens the reader on the life and times of George Sisler. This book meticulously scrutinizes and details Sisler's days akin to the level that one would expect with any noteworthy research project - yet, the book does not read like a boring text book (which sometimes occurs with a work replete with such specificity). Additionally, in key spots throughout his narration, Huhn nimbly intertwines engaging historical facts from the notable national events (both baseball-related and not) unfolding during the time of Sisler's life.
"The Sizzler" has earned the highest compliment that I can offer a book: It was so gripping that I "made time to read it." I would read it first thing in the morning after waking up (instead of watching the "news") - along with my first cup of liquid caffeine fix for the day. I brought the book to work with me - and would read some of it while "wolfing down" lunch (in the few minutes the "job" usually allows for chow). I would read it in the evenings, bypassing primetime television, and would often stay up an hour past my normal "bed time" in order to squeeze in some more reading.
Putting it simple: Reading "The Sizzler" has turned me into a huge George Sisler fan. As Huhn, quoting Donald Honig, shares in the book - Sisler was "a legendary player without a legend." Every dyed-in-the-wool fan of the game of baseball owes it to themselves to become fully aware of the George Sisler story. And, the best way to do that is to read Rick Huhn's fascinating book.
The only significant blemish in "The Sizzler" is repeated mentions of the unlikelihood of anyone breaking Sisler's "record" of 257 hits in a single season. However, given the fact that this book was released to the public just about seven weeks after Ichiro Suzuki (this year) broke Sisler's 84-year old record, an imperfection such as this one is clearly understandable.
NetShrine.com highly recommends Rick Huhn's "The Sizzler - George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great." The book is an essential component for any fan desiring to own a comprehensive baseball library. It currently lists retail at $29.95. Considering the amount of information found in its 291 pages, the level of the craftsmanship used by the author in telling the story, and the delight derived from both these elements, it is a bargain at that price.
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