August 13, 1921: George Sisler becomes first American League player to hit for the cycle twice
Just four days after banging six hits against the Washington Senators,1 St. Louis Browns first baseman George Sisler produced a 5-for-5 game against the Detroit Tigers, hitting for the cycle for the second time in his Hall of Fame career.2 In front of “a good-sized half holiday crowd”3 at Detroit’s Navin Field, the Browns and Tigers were completing a two-game series before traveling to St. Louis for a three-game set at Sportsman’s Park against Detroit. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “a crowd of about 8000 attended.”4Both the Browns and Tigers had no hopes of postseason play. St. Louis came into the game at 52-54, 14 games behind the Cleveland Indians. Detroit was 51-58, 16½ games back.
Rookie Ray Kolp took to the mound for the visiting Browns, coming into the game in search of his sixth victory. He had taken the loss in his three previous starts against Detroit. For the Tigers another rookie, Carl Holling, had the call. Manager Ty Cobb had used Holling sparingly as a starter (he started 11 of 35 games in 1921), and his last victory had come on May 29. He had pitched twice against the Browns in early May without a decision.
In the top of the first, Sisler wasted a triple. With two outs, he hit a ball into right field “aided by the sun that blinded Harry Heilmann,” the right fielder. Ken Williams grounded out to second to end the inning, leaving Sisler stranded 90 feet from home plate.
The home team scored in the bottom of the second, when Heilmann singled to center and advanced to third on Bob Jones’s double. Joe Sargent lifted a fly ball to left field which was caught by Ken Williams, but Williams’s throw to the plate hit Heilmann in the back, allowing him to score.
Sisler “personally superintended the making of the tying run for the Browns in the fourth”5 by belting a leadoff home run into the bleachers in right. An inning later Sisler again proved to be the Browns’ offense. With one out Jack Tobin beat out a bunt single to first. He advanced a base on a groundout by Frank Ellerbe. That brought Sisler back to the plate. He “deposited a double in center,”6 driving in Tobin with the go-ahead run.
The Tigers answered in their half of the sixth inning. Cobb walked to lead off. Bobby Veach sacrificed him to second, and Detroit’s player-manager scored when Heilmann doubled to right-center. The score was tied, 2-2.
In the top of the seventh with two outs, Sisler doubled to right-center, but again his teammates left him stranded. An inning later, Baby Doll Jacobson singled to center and advanced on a sacrifice by Hank Severeid. Wally Gerber sent a shot to left that fell for a run-producing single, and St. Louis once more had the lead. The Browns added a run in the ninth. With one out, Tobin doubled. Ellerbe lifted a deep fly-ball out to Cobb in center, and Tobin tagged, scampering to third. Sisler came up and again delivered, this time a single for his fifth hit. This meant that he had hit for the cycle for the second time in his career. Sisler became the first batter in the history of the American League to hit for the cycle twice. But he ended the Browns rally by attempting to steal second, only to be thrown out by catcher Johnny Bassler.
The “Cobbmen delayed the beating one inning by staging an uprising in the last half of the ninth”7 to tie the game. Jones singled to right to start the attack. Pinch-hitter Chick Shorten walked. Bassler worked a full count but flied out to center. Larry Woodall pinch-hit for Holling and drew a walk, loading the bases. Lu Blue hit a sacrifice fly to score Jones. Cobb inserted Bert Cole to run for Shorten. Ira Flagstead came through with a single to left and Cole raced home with the tying run. St. Louis skipper Lee Fohl called to the bullpen for Bill Bayne, who retired Cobb on a grounder to short. At the end of nine the scored was tied, 4-4.
The St. Louis nine “tallie[d] three in first extra session.”8 Jim Middleton was now pitching for the Tigers. Williams singled and was sacrificed to second by Jacobson. Severeid sent a ball to left, and Bobby Veach made two errors, dropping the fly ball and making an errant throw to the infield. Williams scored and Severeid reached third. Gerber walked, and Severeid came home on Marty McManus’s fly. A single by pitcher Bayne and a double by Tobin brought Gerber in with the inning’s third tally. In the bottom of the 10th, Veach singled and scored on a double by Heilmann, but that was all the Tigers could muster. This victory was the Browns’ fourth in a row, in the middle of a six-game win streak.9
Sisler provided much of the offense for St. Louis, driving in three runs, but Tobin got four hits in six trips to the plate, scoring twice. Sisler’s home run was his fifth of the season. He had gone 5-for-5 with 12 total bases and three RBIs. Bayne picked up his sixth win. Heilmann and Jones each collected three hits for the Tigers. Cobb was 1-for-4.
Sisler’s cycle was the start of a 10-game hitting streak, which saw his average improve from .350 on August 12 to .367 on August 21 (he finished the season at .371). In addition, this was his 13th triple of the season. Sisler’s 18 triples in 1921 led the majors. There were four cycles in the 1921 season.10
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com and retrosheet.org.
1 On August 9, 1921, Sisler was 6-for-9 with two runs and 1 RBI in a 19-inning marathon as the Browns beat the Senators, 8-6, at Griffith Stadium. Dixie Davis pitched a complete game for St. Louis, facing 74 Washington batters. Davis held the Senators to 13 hits and five earned runs, striking out eight. Only five pitchers have pitched at least 19 innings since 1921.
2 Sisler’s first cycle took place on August 8, 1920, in an 11-4 win at Sportsman’s Park against the Washington Senators.
3 Harry Bullion, “Tigers Break in 10th and Browns Win, 7-5,” Detroit Free Press, August 14, 1921: 17.
4 “Browns Score 3 in Tenth Inning and Beat Tigers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 13, 1921: 6.
9 The mini win streak improved the Browns’ record to 55-54. It was the first time the team was above .500 since April.
10 The four cycles of 1921 were accomplished by Bob Meusel (New York Yankees on May 7), Dave Bancroft (New York Giants on June 1), Sisler, and Dave Robertson (Pittsburgh Pirates on August 30).