This article was written by Mike Huber
Lou Gehrig became the second New York Yankees player to hit for the cycle at least twice in his career, as the Yankees routed the St. Louis Browns, 14-5, on August 1, 1937.1 The Yankees hosted the Browns before a Sunday crowd of 18,924 at Yankee Stadium and came away with 17 hits. However, the news of the day was home run number 31 for Joe DiMaggio, who was chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60.
As August began, the seventh-place Browns stood 30½ games behind the first-place Yankees in the American League standings. Spud Chandler was the starting pitcher for New York. The Browns’ Lou Koupal was making his sixth start of the season. The 38-year-old right-hander had been absent from the major leagues since 1930, when he pitched in 13 games for the Philadelphia Phillies.2
The powerful New York lineup wasted no time in displaying its offense. In the bottom of the first, DiMaggio walked with two outs. Gehrig smacked his 21st home run of the season, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead. The Browns responded in the top of the second, as Koupal helped his own cause. Nig Lipscomb doubled with one out and scored on Koupal’s single, and it was 2-1.
Tony Lazzeri led off the Yankees’ second with a single and Myril Hoag walked. Chandler bunted the runners along. Don Heffner, pinch-hitting for Frank Crosetti, singled Lazzeri home. Red Rolfe walked and DiMaggio singled to left. Hoag easily trotted home, but Heffner was tagged out at the plate. The Browns’ left fielder, Joe Vosmik, overthrew catcher Tommy Heath, but Heath recovered the ball, threw to shortstop Bill Knickerbocker covering home and Heffner was tagged out. Gehrig stepped into the batter’s box next and stroked a double, bringing Rolfe home and sending DiMaggio to third. St. Louis manager Jim Bottomley took the ball from Koupal and called for rookie Julio Bonetti, a right-hander from Genoa, Italy, who had a 6.15 ERA entering the contest. Bonetti intentionally walked Bill Dickey to load the bases, then DiMaggio scored on Heath’s passed ball. The Yankees had sent nine batters to the plate and had scored four times.
In the New York fourth, DiMaggio was hit by a pitch and Gehrig singled, but Bonetti worked his way out of the jam. Through four innings, DiMaggio and Gehrig had each reached base three times. In the top of the fifth inning, after the Browns’ Vosmik singled, Harlond Clift sent a Chandler offering beyond the fences, and the score was 6-3. It was third baseman Clift’s 20th home run of the season.
Rolfe smacked a two-run homer in the sixth. In the seventh the Yankees batted around again. The inning played out somewhat like the second inning when four runs were scored. Lazzeri and Hoag singled and both advanced on Chandler’s second sacrifice. Heffner doubled both runners in, and an out later, DiMaggio homered. DiMaggio’s blast traveled more than 400 feet.3 The crowd was buzzing and probably continued talking about DiMaggio’s homer, even as Gehrig sent a ball into right field for a triple, giving him the cycle.
Both teams scored two runs in the eighth inning. For the Browns, Lipscomb led off with a double and Ben Huffman, pinch-hitting for Bonetti, delivered a home run. (It was Huffman’s only major-league home run; 1937 was his only year in the majors.) With Bill Trotter on the mound for the Browns, Lazzeri walked, Hoag tripled him home, and Chandler brought Hoag home with a fly out to left. There was no more scoring, and the final score was New York 14, St. Louis 5.
Gehrig’s accomplishment came just three weeks after DiMaggio himself had hit for the cycle. Three players hit for the cycle in 1937. Besides Gehrig, Gee Walker of the Detroit Tigers did it on April 20 against the Cleveland Indians, and DiMaggio hit for the cycle on July 9 against the Washington Senators.
Gehrig’s cycle performance was overshadowed by his teammate DiMaggio, whose home run in the seventh inning was his 31st of the season. This clout into the upper left field stands “sent the statisticians scurrying to the archives,”4 as the 22-year-old DiMaggio, in only his second big-league season, now had 31 homers in the Yankees’ 91 games. It had taken Babe Ruth 94 games in 1927 (his record season) to reach 31 round-trippers.5 The New York Times mentioned Gehrig’s cycle in the fourth paragraph of its story, with DiMaggio’s feat making the smaller headlines.
Chandler pitched a complete game. This was his first start since a recent stint in the minor leagues at Newark. He allowed 12 hits, including two doubles and two home runs, but he earned his sixth victory of the season. He walked three and struck out one. As a batter, Chandler had two sacrifice bunts and an RBI fly out.
Gehrig got the second cycle of his career with four hits in five at-bats. He scored one run and drove in three. Teammates Heffner, DiMaggio, and Hoag each added three hits to the Yankees offensive attack. The New Yorkers drew eight walks. The 1937 season was Gehrig’s last great season, as he batted .351, best on the squad. DiMaggio led his teammates in hits (215), home runs (46), runs batted in (167), and slugging (.673).
Despite the victory, the first-place Yankees lost a half-game to the second-place Chicago White Sox, who swept a doubleheader from the Philadelphia Athletics. This “demonstration of Yankee artillery fire”6 proved to be a great tuneup for the Bronx Bombers, who opened a doubleheader against Chicago the next day.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.
2 In six scattered seasons between 1925 and 1937, Koupal had won 10 games and lost 21, with a 5.58 ERA. In January 1937 Seattle of the Pacific Coast League sold him to the Browns for Roy Mahaffey and cash.
3 James P. Dawson, “Yankees’ 17 Blows Rout Browns, 14-5: McCarthymen Pound Trio of St. Louis Pitchers – Drive 8 Extra-Base Hits,” New York Times, August 2, 1937.
5 DiMaggio finished the 1937 season with 46 home runs. This led the American League but fell far short of Ruth’s record of 60. That record lasted until 1961, when Roger Maris of the Yankees hit 61.