August 29, 1948: Jackie Robinson hits for reverse natural cycle vs. Cardinals
On August 29, 1948, before a season record crowd of 33,826 at Sportsman’s Park, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals played in a “furiously fought doubleheader”1 that had postseason implications. In the first game, Brooklyn second baseman Jackie Robinson hit for the cycle,2 leading the Dodgers to a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers also captured the second game of the twin bill, 6-4, putting them briefly atop the National League. Robinson’s cycle was the 137th in the major leagues.3
The first game of the doubleheader featured 19 runs, 29 hits, and 6 errors, but it took just 2 hours and 32 minutes to play, even though 91 batters came up to the plate. Brooklyn sent Paul Minner, with a 1-1 record, up against St. Louis’s Harry Brecheen, who had entered the game with a 15-5 mark.
The game started as a “free-hitting affair,”4 as both Jackie Robinson and Bruce Edwards sent Brecheen offerings into the bleachers for home runs. Billy Cox led off the game for Brooklyn and singled to center. Robinson, swinging at a 3-and-2 pitch, brought Cox home with a line-drive home run into the left-field seats, his 10th round-tripper of the season. Pee Wee Reese reached on an error by Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion, and then, with a one-strike count, Edwards launched a two-run shot. Four batters, four Dodgers runs, and St. Louis manager Eddie Dyer strode to the mound and pulled Brecheen. Ted Wilks relieved and retired the next three Brooklyn batters. In the bottom of the inning, George Shuba replaced Edwards in left field.5
Robinson led off the top of the third with a triple to right field. He trotted home when Reese tripled to left field. Shuba singled and the score was now 6-0. Robinson came up for the third time in the top of the fourth. After Cox grounded out to third baseman Erv Dusak, Robinson stroked a line-drive double to left. With Reese batting, Jackie stole third base and then came home on Reese’s line out to center. Robinson’s stolen base was his 17th of the season. It was also the second time he had “pilfered third base”6 in the season.
Stan Musial put the Cardinals on the board with a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, making the score 7-1. In the top of the fifth, however, Brooklyn’s Roy Campanella doubled and Gene Hermanski hit a two-run line-drive home run, adding two more tallies for the Dodgers.
The St. Louis bats came to life from the sixth through the eighth, scoring six runs. In the bottom of the sixth, Enos Slaughter reached base on Robinson’s error. Red Schoendienst walked, and Nippy Jones singled to left field. Slaughter scored easily, and when Gil Hodges fumbled the relay from Shuba in left, Schoendienst scored and Jones scampered to second base. Del Rice lined out to Robinson at second, but then, with Bill Baker pinch-hitting for pitcher Red Munger, Minner uncorked a wild pitch and Jones motored to third. Jones then scored when Baker smashed a double to left. Hank Behrman relieved and finished the game for Brooklyn. He gave up two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Brooklyn added solo runs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth frames. Dodgers starter Minner lasted 5⅓ innings to pick up the victory. The final score was 12-7.
The Cardinals used six pitchers in the game. After relieving Brecheen, Wilks gave way to Al Brazle in the third inning. Munger came on in the sixth, Gerry Staley started the seventh inning, and Jim Hearn pitched the ninth. Only Munger was not touched for a Brooklyn run.
Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times wrote that “Robinson came up with the ‘hat trick,’ following his homer with a triple, double, and, after flying out [in the sixth], a single.”7 The phrase “hitting for the cycle” was not in use at this time. When Robinson came up in the eighth, he drove a ball to center field for his fourth hit, a single. He came up again in the top of the ninth and flied out to left. Robinson’s line for the game was six at-bats, four hits, three runs scored, two runs batted in, and a stolen base. Reese had a 2-for-5 game with three RBIs, and Campanella went 2-for-4 with an intentional walk and an RBI.
The Dodgers scored in seven of nine innings. Brooklyn started the day in third place, two games behind the Boston Braves and a half-game behind the Cardinals. The Dodgers won the second game too, 6-4, with Robinson collecting two more hits. For the day, Robinson had 6 hits in 10 at-bats, scored four runs, and drove in a pair. His batting average rose during the day from .293 to .300, and his slugging percentage jumped from .438 to .456.
After their sweep and Boston’s doubleheader loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers were tied with the Braves for first place; the Cardinals remained 1½ games back. With about 30 games left to play, the chase for the National League pennant was close.8 The Cardinals had used nine pitchers in the doubleheader. The Dodgers and Cardinals played another doubleheader the next day, the 30th (the Dodgers swept again), and the day after, August 31, the Dodgers played the Chicago Cubs in yet another doubleheader (the Dodgers lost both games).
Robinson’s cycle on the 29th was the third and last of the 1948 season. Joe DiMaggio had one on May 20 against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park (his second career cycle), and Pittsburgh’s Wally Westlake had one on July 30 against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. All three 1948 cycles occurred in away games for the batters. On June 14, 1949, Wally Westlake hit for the cycle again, so his two cycles “sandwiched” Robinson’s.
Through the 2015 season, the following players have hit for the reverse natural cycle (home run-triple-double-single).9
|Curry Foley||Buffalo (NL)||May 25, 1882|
|Sam Mertes||New York (AL)||October 4, 1904|
|Gee Walker||Detroit (AL)||April 20, 1937|
|Jackie Robinson||Brooklyn (NL)||August 29, 1948|
|Jim Fregosi||California (AL)||July 28, 1964|
|Luke Scott||Houston (NL)||July 28, 2006|
|Carlos Gomez||Minnesota (AL)||May 7, 2008|
And the following players have hit for the natural cycle (single-double-triple-home run):
|Bill Collins||Boston (NL)||October 6, 1910|
|Bob Fothergill||Detroit (AL)||September 26, 1926|
|Tony Lazzeri||New York (AL)||June 3, 1932|
|Charlie Gehringer||Detroit (AL)||May 27, 1939|
|Leon Culberson||Boston (AL)||July 3, 1943|
|Jim Hickman||New York (NL)||August 7, 1963|
|Ken Boyer||St. Louis (NL)||June 16, 1964|
|Billy Williams||Chicago (NL)||July 17, 1966|
|Tim Foli||Montreal (NL)||April 21, 1976|
|Bob Watson||Boston (AL)||September 15, 1979|
|John Mabry||St. Louis (NL)||May 18, 1996|
|Jose Valentin||Chicago (AL)||May 27, 2000|
|Brad Wilkerson||Montreal (NL)||June 24, 2003|
|Gary Mathews Jr.||Texas (AL)||September 13, 2006|
In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, and retrosheet.org.
1 Roscoe McGowen, “Dodgers Take Two From Cardinals and Gain Lead in Pennant Race,” New York Times, August 30, 1948.
2 There are 24 possible combinations of hitting for the cycle. When a batter hits the single first double, triple, and home run in order, he has completed a “natural cycle.” When he hits a home run, triple, double, and single in order, he has achieved a “reverse natural cycle.”
5 Edwards started the second game as well, but was again pulled by manager Burt Shotton in favor of Shuba, this time in the eighth inning.
8 The Dodgers faded in September, finishing the 1948 season in third place.