Bobby Murcer (Trading Card DB)

August 29, 1972: Bobby Murcer’s ‘game-knotter’ completes cycle, drives Yankees to walk-off win

This article was written by Mike Huber

Bobby Murcer (Trading Card DB)On Friday, August 25, 1972, the New York Yankees began a 10-day, 12-game homestand. Early-season rainouts forced the Yankees to make up two games in doubleheaders, and a scheduled twin bill made it three doubleheaders in five late-August days.1 New York ended up playing 33 games in August.

Twenty-five innings of baseball in the Sunday, August 27, doubleheader – including a 16-inning nightcap – resulted in two Yankees walk-off victories over the Kansas City Royals. After a much-needed offday, New York hosted the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium for a four-game series, starting with a doubleheader on August 29.

Texas, the transplanted Washington Senators,2 had not had a winning month since April and had the league’s worst winning percentage (.397).3 The highlight of the Rangers’ weekend series against the Boston Red Sox, a three-game Boston sweep, may have been 53-year-old manager Ted Williams taking batting practice in a pregame charity event at Fenway Park.

The Yankees were aiming for their first title since winning the 1964 American League pennant. Tied with the Red Sox, they were just 3½ games behind the AL East Division leaders, the Detroit Tigers, and only a game back of the Baltimore Orioles, winners of three consecutive AL pennants. New York had a slow start to the strike-delayed season but by August 13 was only 1½ games out of first.4

Center fielder Bobby Murcer was a key to the Yankees’ offense. A year earlier on this date, Murcer was batting .324 with a .960 OPS. He had heated up in September 1971 (hitting .411 in his final 16 games of the season) and raised his average to .331, second-best in the AL.5 His .969 OPS led the league.

Coming into the series with the Rangers in August 1972, Murcer was batting .287 with an .876 OPS. The 26-year-old Murcer had hit 22 home runs and driven in 72 runs.6 This prompted the New York Daily News to assert, “A repeat of last year’s stretch run by Murcer might be just what the Yankees need to make it.”7

Before 15,987 enthusiastic fans, Murcer took a step toward another strong finish with six hits, including two homers, in the doubleheader. Four of those hits came in the opener as Murcer hit for the cycle.

In the first game, New York started Steve Kline. The third-year right-hander had won a team-best 14 games, against five losses, to this point in the season, including six of his last seven decisions. He brought a stingy 1.61 earned-run average to the mound, best in the AL.

Opposing Kline was southpaw Mike Paul. The Rangers had acquired Paul in an eight-player trade with the Cleveland Indians in the offseason.8 Paul had begun his role with the Rangers as a late-inning reliever, but by early July he had become part of Texas’s starting rotation. He was going for his seventh win, sporting a 2.09 ERA.

The game was scoreless through the first two frames. In the top of the third, Paul led off with a single to right. Elliott Maddox hit a comebacker to Kline, who fired to shortstop Gene Michael, forcing Paul at second. Michael’s throw to first for the double play went wide and Maddox reached second. He scored when Jim Mason singled to center.

In the Yankees’ fourth with one out, Murcer tripled off the auxiliary scoreboard in right. He scored on Roy White’s single through a drawn-in infield. Back-to-back singles by Celerino Sánchez and Ron Swoboda brought White home for a 2-1 lead. New York threatened again in the fifth. With two down, Munson walked and Murcer doubled to right, but Paul stranded them both.

In the top of the sixth, a pair of singles by Larry Biittner and Dalton Jones put Texas runners on first and second with one out. Frank Howard smashed a hard grounder to shortstop Michael who, according to the Daily News, “started what looked like a routine 6-4-3 DP.”9 But second-base umpire Marty Springstead ruled that Jones had beaten the throw to second. Ted Ford then crushed a Kline offering just inside the left-field foul pole for his 11th home run of the season. Texas now had a 4-2 lead.

An inning later, the Rangers expanded their lead to 6-2. Paul led off the seventh with a double to center, his second hit. Maddox laid down a bunt to the right of the mound and beat out a single. With runners at the corners and no outs, Mason singled to right; Paul scored on the play, with Maddox advancing to third, but Mason was tagged out trying to reach second base. Biittner’s RBI single brought Maddox home. Texas had built a four-run lead after seven innings, and the Rangers had bombed Kline for six runs (five earned) and 13 hits, marking his worst performance of the season to date.10

The Yankees rallied after the seventh-inning stretch. Hal Lanier led off with a double into the left-center gap. Paul threw one pitch (a ball) to Horace Clarke before Williams called for a reliever. Paul Lindblad, another left-hander, entered but threw just six pitches – resulting in an RBI double by Clarke and singles by Munson and Murcer – before he too was relieved. Munson’s hit plated Clarke, and Murcer’s, combined with his earlier triple and double, gave him three-fourths of the cycle.

Casey Cox, the Rangers’ third pitcher, walked White to load the bases, keeping the inning alive. Although Cox retired the next three New York batters, Bernie Allen’s groundout drove in Munson, reducing the Yankees’ deficit to one run, at 6-5.

Rookie Steve Lawson pitched the ninth for Texas, making his eighth career appearance.11 The first batter he faced was Murcer, who launched his 23rd home run 350 feet into the right-field seats.12 His “game-knotter”13 sent the game into extra innings and completed his cycle.

Neither team scored in the 10th, although the Yankees threatened. After retiring Michael, Lawson walked the next two batters. Horacio Piña entered as the Rangers’ fifth pitcher and got Munson to hit into a force out. That brought Murcer to the plate. Williams ordered Piña to intentionally walk Murcer. That meant pitching to White (who was 2-for-4) with the bases loaded.14 The move paid off, as White grounded to second for the final out of the inning.

New York’s Ron Klimkowski had faced the minimum in his three innings of relief work (aided by two double plays). Sparky Lyle worked a scoreless 11th inning for New York. Although Ford reached on third baseman Allen’s throwing error, Lyle notched two strikeouts and a groundout. In the bottom of the 11th, Piña walked both Ron Blomberg and Allen. Johnny Callison, a seventh-inning replacement for Swoboda, singled to left to end the game. Blomberg’s run gave New York its third consecutive walk-off win.

The Rangers had squandered a 14-hit attack, as their bullpen faltered after Paul left the game.

They salvaged a split by winning the second game of the twin bill, 7-4, despite Murcer’s two hits, one of which was his 24th homer of the season, and a home run by Callison. Lindblad, “one of the goats of the first game, came out of the second a hero”15 as he pitched three innings, allowing one run and preserving the Rangers’ win. The split dropped New York into fourth place in the AL East.16 Winning just 13 of their 30 games in September and October, the Yankees finished the season in the fourth spot.

This was Murcer’s third four-hit game in his last four. He had tripled in all three extra-hit games.17 He extended his current hitting streak to six games, raising his average to .292 in that span. The New York Daily News reported that Murcer was “No. 1 in your scorecard, just as he is in all the Yankee statistics.”18 Murcer finished the season leading the AL in runs scored (102) and total bases (314). The 26-year-old slugger also was awarded a Gold Glove for his defense.19

Murcer’s feat in the first game of the doubleheader marked the 13th time in franchise history that a Yankees player had hit for the cycle. The man who roamed Yankee Stadium’s center field followed his predecessors, Joe DiMaggio (July 9, 1937, and May 20, 1948) and Mickey Mantle (July 23, 1957) in accomplishing the rare event. In fact, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Murcer were the only three Yankees batters to hit for the cycle from 1948 until 1995.20

Murcer was also the third player in the majors to hit for the cycle in 1972, following Dave Kingman (San Francisco Giants, April 16) and César Cedeño (Houston Astros, August 2). Minnesota’s César Tovar became the fourth and final player in 1972 to complete the cycle (September 19).



This article was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and



1 New York played five games, including two twin bills (four games), against the Kansas City Royals from August 25 to 27 (one game was a makeup game due to a June 21 rainout). The first game of the August 29 doubleheader against the Rangers was due to a June 18 rainout. The Yankees had also played in three doubleheaders in a seven-day stretch in July, again making up games that had been postponed due to rain. For the season, a total of 14 games had to be rescheduled because of rain in the Big Apple.

2 The Washington Senators moved to Texas beginning with the 1972 season, switching from the AL East to the AL West. The Senators, who succeeded the original Senators franchise that moved to Minnesota, had posted just one winning season in those 11 seasons in Washington, and had lost 100 or more games four times. The Rangers won only five games after this series with the Yankees, losing 100 games in their inaugural season in Arlington.

3 The .397 mark was tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for worst in the league.

4 Losing eight of their next 11 games dropped them briefly to fourth place.

5 Minnesota’s future Hall of Famer Tony Oliva led the AL with a .337 batting average.

6 Murcer was primarily a late-season call-up in the 1965 and 1966 seasons, playing shortstop for the Yankees. Missing both the 1967 and 1968 seasons because of military service, Murcer transitioned to the Yankees’ outfield in 1969, playing mainly in right field, although he did appear in some games at third base and in center. By 1970, he was New York’s starting center fielder.

7 Phil Pepe, “Murcer, White Yankees’ Mealtickets,” New York Daily News, August 30, 1972: 21.

8 On December 2, 1971, Texas traded for Paul, Roy FosterRich Hand, and Ken Suarez, sending Gary JonesTerry LeyDenny Riddleberger, and Del Unser to Cleveland.

9 Phil Pepe, “Yanks Top Rangers in Extra Innings,” New York Daily News, August 30, 1972: 84.

10 Kline’s ERA jumped to only 1.79. Just a week later, Kline yielded eight hits and four walks in 5⅓ innings against the Boston Red Sox, who scored eight runs (seven earned).

11 Lawson spent just two months in the majors. He made 13 appearances (from August 3 to October 4), posting a 2.81 ERA with no decisions.

12 Harold McKinney, “Rangers Hold On, Gain Split,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 30, 1972: 21, 22.

13 Pepe, “Yanks Top Rangers in Extra Innings.”

14 White finished the season with a 5.3 WAR, second on the Yankees only to Murcer (8.2).

15 Harold McKinney, “Lindblad Goes From Goat to Hero for Texas,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 30, 1972: 60.

16 Both New York (64-59) and the Boston Red Sox (63-58) were three games behind the Tigers and Orioles (both at 67-56), but Boston had a percentage-point advantage (.521 to .520).

17 On August 27 (against the Royals), Murcer was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.

18 Pepe, “Murcer, White Yankees’ Mealtickets.” Murcer’s 24 home runs and 76 runs batted in were best on the Yankees and second-best to Chicago’s Dick Allen (32 HR, 92 RBI).

19 This was Murcer’s only Gold Glove Award in his 17-year career.

20 On September 3, 1995, Tony Fernández became the 14th Yankees batter to hit for the cycle. On August 2, 2009, Melky Cabrera joined the list, hitting for the cycle against the Chicago White Sox and playing – center field!

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 7
Texas Rangers 6
Game 1, DH

Yankee Stadium
New York, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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