How To Play First Base, By George Sisler

George Sisler,1B, St. Louis Browns August 1922 Hall of Fame, 1939 Photo, Courtesy of The Sporting News

George Sisler,1B, St. Louis Browns
August 1922
Inducted into the Hall of Fame, 1939
Photo, Courtesy of The Sporting News

Under a headline of blazing glory in the May 11, 1924 sports pages of the Port Arthur (TX) News, “FIRST BASEMAN MUST LEARN TO “GO OUT AND MEET THE BALL’ WRITES GEO. SISLER”, the following advice sprang forth like so many lightening bolts of wisdom from one of the gods of baseball heaven:

(How To Play First Base)

By George Sisler

Greatest First Baseman of All Time

No player can hope for success as a first baseman unless he is a sure catch. This feature of play is far more essential at first than any other place in the infield.

It is absolutely necessary for a first baseman to become as efficient in catching a ball with the gloved hand as with both. This makes it possible for him to stretch and take a throw while on the bag that would be impossible if he tried to make the play with both hands.

A study of the batters is another important feature that must be given much consideration. A knowledge of the field to which a batsman is most liable to hit, enables the first baseman to so shift that he  will be in the best possible position to make a play.

Since perhaps 30 per cent of the outs in a ball game are made at first base, it is an easy matter to see that the ability of the man playing that position has much to do with a club’s success.

Speed Enters Into Style of Play

It is impossible to tell just how and where a first baseman should play to be most efficient. The speed of the player enters largely into this feature of first basing. The player fast on his feet can play a much deeper first base than the athlete who is slow of foot.

In determining the best possible position to ordinarily assume, the first baseman must consider not only himself but the batter as well. Naturally a first baseman can play deeper on a slow-footed batter than a speed merchant.

When to hold a runner on first is usually determined by the conditions of the game. However, it is safe to say that with second base unoccupied and a runner on first, it is always advisable to hold him close to the bag.

Every first baseman should learn the art of stretching to meet the ball, rather than catching it standing erect. A fraction of a second is the difference between out and safe at first in a majority of plays.

Footwork or the shifting of the feet for throws is most important. Dexterity in this particular feature of first base play can only be acquired through great effort and constant practice. Some first basemen far excel others in this feature of play. Not every athlete is light on his feet, just as all of us are not good dancers.


I have simply given the fundamentals of first base play. The finer points of the game come with experience. There are too many tricks to the playing of first base that can be gained only as a result of having them come up in actual play and then having them sink in.

In a great many cases the best possible position to assume as well as play to make is governed by the conditions of the game, the score, then number of outs, the inning and the ability f the batter.

These features cannot be briefly discussed. If a player gets the fundamentals, he later grasps the finer points by having them come up in competition.


Pecan Park Eagle Footnote: In 15 seasons as a major leaguer (1915-1923, 1925-1930), George Sisler (BL/TL) played 1,971 major league games, the preponderance of them in 12 seasons as a first baseman for the St. Louis Browns (1915-1923, 1925-1927). Sisler missed the entire 1924 season when a severe case of sinusitis caused double vision and made playing ball impossible for the arguably greatest hitting and fielding first baseman of all time. Sisler finished with a career batting average of .340 and 2,812 career hits. Sisler twice led MLB with 257 hits in 1920 and and 246 hits in in 1922. In both seasons, he hit over .400 – with a .404 mark in 1920 and a .420 average in 1922. Until it was broken in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners with 262 hits, George Sisler’s 257 hits in 1920 had stood over time as the MLB record for most hits in any big league single season. – George Sisler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in its opening season of 1939. In 1999, the editors of The Sporting News named George Sisler as the 33rd highest pick on their list of “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players.” Thanks again to researcher Darrell Pittman for supplying the news file article that inspired this tribute to one of the greatest players in baseball history.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “How To Play First Base, By George Sisler”

  1. bphughes66 Says:

    Thought Luke might like this article!Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2015 03:45:01 +0000 To:

  2. Tom Murrah Says:

    Thanks for the memories. George Sisler was Dad’s favorite player. I can remember him trying to coach “footwork” to kids of all ages.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: