10/01/2004 11:53 PM ET
A 'proud' moment for Sisler's family
Relatives on hand to see Ichiro break record
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Three generations of the George Sisler family came to Safeco Field on Friday to witness -- and applaud -- the end of an 84-year-old Major League record dear to their hearts.
|Ichiro Suzuki (left) is congratulated George Sisler's daughter, Frances, on Friday. (Jim Bryant/AP)
The family patriarch set the all-time single-season hit record in 1920 when he had 257 hits for the St. Louis Browns. Bill Terry challenged the record in 1929 with 254 hits and Lefty O'Doul made a run the following year, also ending up with 254 hits.
But Sisler's record has rested comfortably ever since -- until this season.
Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki used speed, bat control, a strong mind and healthy body to challenge, and eventually catch, one of the oldest records in the book.
Ichiro entered Friday night's series opener against the Rangers with 256 hits and promptly bounced a single over the head of Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock. Two innings later, Ichiro hit a hard grounder up the middle for his record-breaking 258th hit.
The Sisler family, flown in by the Mariners for the three-game series, watched from the Commissioner's box near the first base dugout when Ichiro tied and then broke the record.
Two hours earlier, they were sitting at a table in the Safeco Field interview room.
"We are here to celebrate baseball and my grandfather," said Ric Sisler. "There are mixed feelings. I'm very proud of my grandfather's accomplishments in baseball, but records are made to be broken."
Along with Ric were his mom and George Sisler's only daughter, Frances, grandsons Peter Drochelman and William "Bo" Drochelman, and great-grandson Brian Drochelman.
"My grandfather really respected the game of baseball," Bo Drochelman said. "He cherished it and he played every minute to the hilt. He was dedicated to the game, dedicated to hard work and it would make him proud that the same kind of person is moving toward his record."
Sisler once held the AL record for the longest consecutive-game hitting streak -- 41 games in 1922. He was still alive when Joe DiMaggio shattered the record with a 56-game streak in 1941.
"When Joe DiMaggio broke the record someone asked my grandfather how he felt about it," Peter Drochelman said. "He said, 'I think it's great and couldn't happen to a nicer guy.' In this instance, he would be saying the same kind of thing about Ichiro."
Now 81 years old, Frances has fond memories of her father, considered by some as the greatest first baseman to ever play the game, and certainly one of the nicest to play it.
"I am delighted to be here," she said. "I had it wonderful growing up. I had three brothers and was the only girl in the family, so I ignored baseball pretty much. My father was a gentleman and I love the fact they called him 'Gentleman George,' because he was such a gentleman. From what I have been told, Ichiro also is a gentleman."
As they reminisced inside a room full of national and international media, the Sisler offspring talked of George being so modest that he refused to talk about his own career.
"My brother and I would try to get stories out of him about his own exploits and he wouldn't budge," Bo said. "He would just never tell stories about himself. He might tell stories about other great players he played against, but he wouldn't talk about himself."
And there was so much to talk about. George Sisler played against Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. He was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1922, when he batted .420 -- still the highest average ever in the AL.
As the oldest grandson, there were times when Bo received special privileges.
One of those times was when his retired grandfather and Branch Rickey were in the living room talking about which players they thought were potential Major League hitters and those that weren't.
"If I had a tape recorder at that point, I probably could have sold that tape for a lot of money," Bo said.
Brian Drochelman, 30, Bo's son and George's great grandson, said, "My great-grandfather passed away the year before I was born so I didn't have a chance to know him. But I recently have been able to read some of the stories that have been written on him and to learn what a great person he was."
So great was Sisler that Cobb -- one of the roughest players in the game when he played -- went out of his way to be a gentleman around him.
"Maybe it was because of who my grandfather was on the field and as a person," Bo said, "but whenever they played against each other in St. Louis, [Cobb] would always come over to my grandfather and ask if my grandmother was in the stands.
"He respected her so much he was the ultimate gentleman when he talked to them."
Cobb reportedly once said that Sisler might have been the only player better than him and Sisler's one weakness was, "He was too much of a gentleman. When I went into a base, my spikes were up and if the guy was in the way, he was in trouble. If George was going into a base and it looked like he might hurt [the defender], he would back off.
"You have to admire a man like that."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.