Tuesday, April 26, 2016
217. Bill Sisler: Where's Bill?
Ever been to Moline, Muskogee or Martinsburg? How about Clarksburg, Charleroi or Cumberland? Pitcher Bill Sisler not only hung his hat in all of those places but also over 40 more towns across America and Canada in a career that spanned from 1923 through 1953!
This is the second of what should be close to forty posts I will periodically do covering the minor league odyssey of Bill Sisler. This series will be fun for a few different reasons, the foremost being that I love researching and illustrating old uniforms, and Sisler's appearing for over 40 different teams lets me really show a wide variety. To make this whole series a bit easier is that Sisler kept himself in top physical condition throughout his playing days in order to be ready to play at a moment's notice. This means he didn't gain weight or otherwise change his body shape with age. For all my Sisler illustrations I am going to use the same pose, but each uniform graphic will change to represent a new team. Likewise the backgrounds will vary to reflect each town he played in. In addition, as the years tick by, the glove, cap and uniform style will change to reflect the modernization of the equipment. For instance, today's post shows Bill on his second pro team, the Rutland Sheiks. Since this is 1924, Sisler is using a Spalding split-finger style glove as was common at the time. The webbing between the thumb and index is a solid piece of leather, not leather lacing as was common later in the decade. His jersey has the "sun collar" which was the standard for baseball uniforms up until the mid-1930's, and the cap has a shorter brim as was common in mid-1920's.
So, who was Bill Sisler?
He was born in Rochester, New York in the first year of the 20th century, 1900. By all newspaper stories I've read about him, Sisler is described as a sturdy and stocky fellow who stood a compact 5'-6" - just below average for a ball player at the time and considerably shorter than what was the accepted height for a pitcher. None-the-less, Sisler must have had something on his fastball, and his being a lefty probably didn't hurt either.
1924 was Bill Sisler's sophomore season in professional baseball. His unremarkable record with Elmira the previous season apparently didn't earn him a call-back to the New York Penn League so, as he would every year for the rest of his career, Bill Sisler packed up his glove and found another league.
In 1918 almost every minor league in the U.S. and Canada had disbanded due to the man power shortage of World War I. By 1924 the minor leagues were beginning to find the financial footing they enjoyed before the war, and besides the restarting of the old leagues, several new ones sprang up. The Quebec-Ontario-Vermont League was one of them, and it was here that Bill Sisler found a spot.
This Class B international league consisted of six teams including the awesomely named Monpelier Goldfish, Quebec Bulldogs and the Rutland Sheiks. Sisler joined the latter club, who presumably took their monicker from the wildly popular Rudolph Valentino film "The Sheik". Bill's time with the Sheiks was short, but it wasn't due to his performance on the mound - on July 15, 1924 both Rutland and Montpelier folded, leaving only the four Canadian teams.
Cut loose, Bill Sisler looked around for another team...
One more thing - I'm not too big to know when I need help with something. While I'm a pretty good researcher with a vast archive of uniform reference, some of Bill Sisler's teams remain elusive for me. If anyone can help with photographs of some of his teams, I'd be most grateful. You can see a list of his stops HERE.