Rick Huhn '69 Publishes The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great
Rick Huhn '69 has come full circle. This one time sports editor of his high school newspaper who dreamed of becoming a sports writer became a lawyer instead. As his career progressed from FBI agent to Ohio assistant attorney general to private practitioner and eventually an of counsel relationship with the Columbus firm of Blumenstiel Huhn Adams & Evans LLC, Rick never let go of his dream to write. That dream was realized this October with the publication of The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball's Forgotten Great.
Early in his FBI career, Rick wrote two political thrillers. Although he was able to find literary agents, rare for first-time authors, publication eluded him. As an assistant attorney general in the 1970's, he co-authored a book on Ohio's Drug Abuse Control Act. He eventually returned to sports writing through the intercession of a fellow attorney.
The co-worker introduced Rick to George Sisler, Jr., a former Columbus Clippers general manager and son of the baseball legend. Their lunch blossomed into an enthusiastic cooperative collaboration. Rick was ultimately given access to the senior Sisler's unpublished memoir.
Rick began the project working at home on Friday afternoons. As his research took him to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Library of Congress, University of Michigan archives, and Boston, he spent less time lawyering and more time writing.
The first and only publisher Rick approached, University of Missouri Press, accepted the book enthusiastically. Says Rick of his success, "It's really like stepping out into the pool without a life preserver - challenging, yet pleasurable."
Weaving excerpts from the memoir into the fabric of the national and international events unfolding during Sisler's career, the book reveals the full picture of a family man who overcame great obstacles, stood on high principles, and left his mark on major league baseball.
"Gorgeous George" Sisler, a left-handed first basemen, began his major league baseball career in 1915 with the St. Louis Browns. During his sixteen years in the majors, he played with such baseball luminaries as Ty Cobb, who once called Sisler "the nearest thing to a perfect ballplayer." Sisler also played with Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby. These stars considered Sisler an equal, and Branch Rickey, one of baseball's foremost innovators and talent scouts, said in 1922 that Sisler was "the greatest player that ever lived." In 1925, Sisler was the first baseball player to grace the cover of Time magazine.
During Sisler's illustrious career he was a .340 hitter, twice achieving the rare feat of hitting more than .400. Considered by many to be one of the game's most skillful first basemen, he was the first at this position to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Yet unlike many of his peers who became household names, Sisler faded from baseball's collective consciousness. Rick Huhn, drawing on the analysis and research skills he had honed as a plaintiff's trail lawyer, set out to learn why.
Rick concluded that the answer to Sisler's diminished status lies somewhere amid the tenor of Sisler's times, his own character and demeanor, the kinds of individuals who are chosen as our sports heroes, and the complex definition of fame itself. Rick contends that in a society so obsessed with exposing the underbellies of its heroes, Sisler's lack of a dark side may explain why less has been written about him.
In the course of his research on Sissler, Rick discovered Eddie Collins who he calls "one of the good guys in the 'Chicago Black Sox' 1919 World Series scandal." Rick is currently under contract with McFarland books to write Collins' biography.
Of his new career, Rick says, "I am able to blend my interests in sports, history, and writing. As a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) I am dedicated to enriching the experience of today's baseball fan by recalling the life and times of those players who made the game into 'America's Pastime.' For me it has been a most satisfying journey."
The journey will continue in upcoming months as Rick splits his time between writing the new book and appearances and book signings for the Sisler biography. Classmates and friends can reach Rick through his web site at www.rickhuhn.com.