Mike Tiernan (TRADING CARD DB)

August 25, 1888: Mike Tiernan becomes first player in Giants history to hit for the cycle

This article was written by Mike Huber

Mike Tiernan (TRADING CARD DB)“Another week has passed and New York still leads the League by an increased percentage.”1 So began the Philadelphia Times’s account of the National League in its Sunday morning sports column on August 26, 1888. As the New York Giants closed a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies,2 the Giants (62-32-4) had a commanding lead in the NL standings. The Phillies (47-46-1) were 14½ games back, in fifth place, but only 1½ games from being in third.3 The clubs had split the first two games of the series.

According to the New York Tribune, 6,942 spectators4 had showed up to Philadelphia’s Huntingdon Grounds to witness the rubber game on August 25. It was a one-sided affair, as the New York nine delivered 13 base hits and rolled to a 7-0 win. The visitors were led by right fielder Mike Tiernan, whose “stickwork was the feature of the game.”5 He hit for the cycle in four trips to home plate.

Tiernan, 21 years old in 1888, was playing in just his second season in the NL, with a reputation as a “hard-hitting lefty batter.”6 In 1886, while playing for the Jersey City Jerseys, he had led the Eastern League in hits (123) and runs scored (85). He was signed by the Giants in early 1887 and quickly became New York’s everyday right fielder.

In 13 seasons in the NL, all with the Giants, Silent Mike7 batted .311. Twice, in 1890 and 1891, Tiernan led the league in home runs, and he paced the NL in runs scored in 1889. According to his SABR biography, Tiernan was “one of only a handful of 19th century players to spend his entire major league career in a single city.”8

The game featured two star pitchers of the nineteenth century: Charlie Buffinton for the Phillies and Tim Keefe for the Giants. It was a rematch from the first game of the series played two days before, when Philadelphia prevailed, 3-2.9

The 27-year-old Buffinton was in his seventh season in the majors and second with Philadelphia. In 1884, while pitching for the Boston Beaneaters, Buffinton tied Providence Grays hurler Old Hoss Radbourn’s previous record of 48 wins in a season. Unfortunately for Buffinton, that same season, Radbourn broke his own mark by winning 60 for the NL’s Grays, and Louisville Eclipse ace Guy Hecker won 52, which was tops in the American Association.10 Buffinton’s mark of 48 wins remains tied for fifth best all-time.

Buffinton’s opponent on the mound was just as good. Now in his ninth big-league season, 31-year-old future Hall of Famer Keefe had been pitching for the Giants since 1885. He tied for the NL lead in wins in 1886 with 42,11 and in his 14-season career, he posted 342 victories with a .603 winning percentage.

Philadelphia’s Ed Andrews opened the game with a single but was immediately doubled up when Jim Fogarty struck out on a foul tip and New York catcher Buck Ewing threw to first to catch Andrews off the bag. Charlie Bastian was called out on strikes to end the inning.

In the bottom of the first, New York’s Ewing led off with a single but, after Danny Richardson struck out, was caught trying to steal second. Tiernan reached on a “scratch hit”12 and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He moved up another base on John Montgomery “Monte” Ward’s single. Ward stole second base, but both runners were stranded when Buffinton struck out Roger Connor.

Neither side scored in the second, but the third inning was full of drama and excitement. With one down in the top of the inning, Arthur Irwin singled and went to second on Buffinton’s out. He moved up another 90 feet on a passed ball charged to Ewing.

Andrews drew a walk, which required five balls in 1888,13 and with runners at the corners, Andrews took off for second. Ewing threw to second baseman Ward, who returned the ball to Ewing as Irwin raced toward home. Ward’s throw was “wide of the plate.”14

As Ewing reached for the ball, he bumped into the batter Fogarty, who was out of his batter’s box. Irwin scored, but umpire John Valentine called him out due to Fogarty’s interference.

Irwin, the Phillies team captain, argued the point and, according to the Philadelphia Times, “the crowd advised the Phillies not to play.” Valentine reversed his decision, sending the runners back to the corners.

Andrews then stole second again, but this time, Irwin stayed put. Fogarty walked, loading the bases. A pitch from Keefe to Bastian got away from Ewing. Irwin started from third but fell down. Ewing threw to third baseman Art Whitney, who applied the tag for the third out.

In the bottom half, Ewing and Richardson both made hard contact, but their fly balls were caught. Tiernan, however, “poked the ball over into Broad Street,” 15 past the right-field wall for a home run and a 1-0 Giants lead.

The Phillies loaded the bases again in the fourth, on two singles and a walk, but again they failed to score. They were retired in order in the fifth, and the Giants’ bats came alive in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Keefe reached on an error by shortstop Irwin. Ewing singled to right-center and Keefe made it to third base. Richardson’s double plated Keefe for the Giants’ second run of the game.

Tiernan lined a triple “over Andrews’ head”16 in right-center field for his third hit of the game, and New York tallied two more runs. Ward’s grounder to short brought Tiernan home, giving the Giants a 5-0 lead.

The visitors added two more runs in the seventh. Ewing started matters with a triple. Richardson drove the ball right to Buffinton on the mound, but the pitcher could not make the play, and the Giants had runners at first and third. Tiernan cracked a double into right field, completing his cycle and scoring Ewing. Ward’s sacrifice brought Richardson home with New York’s seventh run.

Keefe yielded a double to Bastian to lead off the sixth, but he then retired the next nine Phillies batters. George Wood broke that string by hitting a single to start the top of the ninth, but one out later he was caught stealing. Jack Clements struck out to end the game. Keefe had pitched a shutout as the Giants prevailed, 7-0.

In addition to his four-hit cycle performance, Tiernan scored twice and batted in four runs. Ewing and Whitney each added three hits to the Giants attack. Bastian led the Phillies with two hits, including Philadelphia’s only extra-base hit.

Tiernan’s feat marked the fourth time in the 1888 season that a batter had hit for the cycle. The others were Harry Stovey (May 15, Philadelphia Athletics against the Baltimore Orioles, AA), Sam Barkley (June 13, Kansas City Cowboys against the Cincinnati Reds, AA), and Jimmy Ryan (July 28, Chicago White Stockings against the Detroit Wolverines, NL). This also marked the very first time in franchise history that a Giants batter had hit for the cycle.17

Prior to this series, the Giants had bested the Phillies 10 times in 14 games. The two teams met just once more, in early September, for a three-game series. New York won two of the games, and there was a scoreless, 11-inning tie.


Author’s Note

Tiernan is given credit for completing the cycle a second time in his career. According to several sources,18 two seasons later, on June 28, 1890, Tiernan supposedly hit for the cycle against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds won 12-3, but a careful inspection of the newspapers shows that Tiernan was 2-for-4 in that contest with a single and home run.19 Perhaps he did hit for the cycle a second time in his career. If so, it was not on June 28, 1890.



This article was fact-checked by Stew Thornley and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org. Box scores and play-by-play are not available from either Retrosheet or Baseball-Reference.



1 “The Giants’ Great Game,” Philadelphia Times, August 26, 1888: 2.

2 According to Baseball-Reference.com, the team’s nickname was the Quakers, which was used for the 1883 through 1889 seasons. However, the Philadelphia newspapers referred to their home team as the Phillies.

3 The Giants won the NL pennant and went on to defeat the American Association champion St. Louis Browns, six games to four, in the 1888 World Series. Tiernan batted .342 with eight runs scored and five stolen bases. The Phillies claimed third place, but they finished 14½ games back in the NL standings.

4 “The Victorious Giants,” New York Tribune, August 26, 1888: 3.

5 “The Victorious Giants.”

6 Bill Lamb, “Mike Tiernan,” SABR Biography Project, found online at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/mike-tiernan/. Accessed February 2022.

7 Lamb.

8 Lamb.

9 Keefe and Buffinton had also faced each other earlier in the season. On June 8 Keefe and the Giants defeated the Phillies 7-4 at Huntingdon Grounds.

10 Both Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org credit Radbourn with 60 wins in 1884. However, researcher and author Edward Achorn discusses whether Radbourn won 59 or 60 games, in a Games Project article about the July 28, 1884, game between the Providence Grays and the Philadelphia Phillies. See sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-28-1884-old-hoss-radbourn-59-or-60-victories/.

11 Keefe’s 42 wins rank 22nd-best in major-league history. (He tied for the lead with Lady Baldwin.) He also led the NL in 1888 with 35 wins; Buffinton finished the 1888 season with 28 victories.

12 “The Giants’ Great Game.”

13 For the rules of the game in 1888, see Joel Rippel, “1887 Winter Meetings: Harmony After a Fire Sale,” found online at https://sabr.org/journal/article/1887-winter-meetings-harmony-after-a-fire-sale/. Accessed March 2022.

14 “The Giants’ Great Game.”

15 “The Giants’ Great Game.”

16 “Seven Runs to Nothing,” New York Times, August 26, 1888: 6.

17 Some sources list two cycles accomplished by Dave Orr (on June 12, 1885, and on August 10, 1887). However, Orr played for the New York Metropolitans (not the Giants) in the American Association, a franchise that lasted from 1883 through 1887.

18 See https://www.retrosheet.org/cycles.htm, https://www.baseball-almanac.com/hitting/Major_League_Baseball_Players_to_hit_for_the_cycle.shtml and https://www.mlb.com/news/players-who-hit-for-the-cycle-c265552018. Accessed February 2022.

19 See box scores at (1) “Knocked Out of the Box,” Philadelphia Times, June 29, 1890: 2; (2) “The Reds Pounded Rusie’s Curves,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 1890: 3; (3) “Cincinnati 12, New York 3,” Boston Globe, June 29, 1890: 8. The Globe gives Tiernan credit for three base hits. Other box scores support the fact that Tiernan did not get four hits in this game against the Reds; therefore, if they are reporting the truth, he could not have hit for the cycle.

Additional Stats

New York Giants 7
Philadelphia Phillies 0

Huntingdon Grounds
Philadelphia, PA

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