This article was written by Mike Huber
On the eve of Independence Day 1922, the New York Yankees exploded with 17 hits in a fireworks hitting display against the Philadelphia Athletics. Bob Meusel hit for the cycle, and Babe Ruth and Everett Scott each homered as well, leading the Bronx Bombers to a 12-1 victory at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. Harry Newman of the New York Daily News labeled the offensive outburst, “Swatting, men, swatting!”1
The season was about half-finished as the two teams settled in to play the fourth game in a six-game series. New York owned a 42-32 mark while holding down second place in the American League. Last-place Philadelphia had a record of 27-39. The Yankees had taken the first three games of the series, outscoring the Athletics 20-8 in that stretch.
On this Monday afternoon, before a crowd of about 13,000, Athletics manager Connie Mack sent second-year pitcher Jim Sullivan to the mound. Sullivan’s career could be defined by the 1922 season. He pitched in two games in late 1921, starting (and completing) both, but suffered two defeats by allowing 13 runs in 17 innings pitched (although only six runs were earned). The right-hander pitched in 20 games in 1922, but this was one of only two starts. He was sold by the Athletics to Portland of the Pacific Coast League on August 19, after building another 0-2 record with a 5.44 earned-run average.2
Yankees skipper Miller Huggins countered with Carl Mays, who was making his 16th start of the season. This was his fifth start against the Athletics in 1922, and Mays had been perfect, pitching four complete games, including an 11-inning contest, and winning all four. Entering this game, according to the New York Times, “Carl Mays was in fine trim with his submarine pitching.”3
The Yankees wasted no time in getting to Sullivan. Whitey Witt led off the top of the first with a single to right. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mike McNally. That brought Ruth, who had led the league in runs batted in for the last three seasons, to the plate. With a count of two balls and a strike, Ruth “clicked off a towering infield fly.”4 Philadelphia first baseman Joe Hauser settled under it but the ball “bounded out of his hands into those of [shortstop Chick] Galloway”5 for an out instead of an error. On the play, Witt advanced to third base.
Batting cleanup for New York was 25-year-old right fielder Bob Meusel. He brought into the game a four-game hitting streak and a batting average of .321. He drove one of Sullivan’s deliveries into center field for an RBI single. Then, with Wally Pipp batting, Meusel attempted to steal second and was thrown out.
In the second inning, New York put together three singles and a sacrifice to plate two more tallies. Pipp started the inning with a single to left. Aaron Ward sacrificed him to second base. Scott smacked a single to center. Pipp raced around third and headed home. Philadelphia’s Beauty McGowan fielded the hit and fired toward the infield, but third baseman Jimmy Dykes couldn’t handle the throw. Pipp scored and Scott ended up on third base. Fred Hofmann followed with a single into left field, and Scott scored an unearned run, upping the New York advantage to 3-0.
In the fifth, “young Sullivan was given a pounding.”6 Witt drew a one-out walk. McNally singled to right, sending Witt to third. Ruth dribbled a ball in front of the plate and catcher Cy Perkins threw him out at first, but now New York had runners on second and third. Meusel “cracked the ball against the scoreboard in centre field for three bases.”7 Pipp singled in Meusel for the third run of the inning.
Meanwhile, Mays was mowing down the A’s. Through the first four innings, he had faced only two above the minimum, yielding a one-out walk in the first and a two-out single in the third, though neither runner advanced. In the bottom of the fifth, Dykes cracked a two-out double to right field, but he was stranded when Heinie Scheer, pinch-hitting for Sullivan, grounded out to Mays on the mound.
In the seventh, with one down and Charlie Eckert now pitching for the A’s, Ruth “considered 13 a lucky number, when he crowned the ball for a circuit drive to bring his total up to the jinx figure.”8 The ball landed in the left-field bleachers for a home run. The shot tied him for third in the American League, behind the Browns’ Ken Williams (20) and the Athletics’ Tillie Walker (17). (Cardinals star Rogers Hornsby led the senior circuit with 18 home runs.) After the game, Ruth told reporters that he “will soon pass those other home run clubbers who are now leading him.”9 Ruth had now hit five round-trippers in his last four games. Not to be outdone, Meusel followed Ruth with a home run drive “into the same place.”10 The score was now 8-0, in favor of the visitors.
The Yankees were not done yet. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “a five-hit bombardment in the eighth round scored four more runs and the home team was licked to a frazzle.”11 Scott homered, becoming the third New Yorker to make a “wallop to the harassed left field stand.”12 He had hit only one home run in all of the 1921 season, and this was already his second “circuit smash”13 of the 1922 campaign.14 Hofmann singled but was forced out by Mays. Witt singled, but he was forced out by McNally, with Mays going to third. Ruth then joined the club, hitting a single to center, plating Mays. Meusel drove a double to left. His two-bagger just missed being another home run, and both McNally and Ruth crossed the plate. Left fielder Walker chased the drive to the left-field bleacher wall and “made a stab for the pill as it sailed over his head,”15 preventing it from going into the stands. With the double, Meusel had hit for the cycle and had extended the Yankees’ lead to 12-0.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Hauser “lifted the ball over the fence,”16 breaking up the shutout. It was his second round-tripper of the season. The Athletics had a runner (McGowan) on in the ninth, but he got only as far as second base. The game ended with the score 12-1.
Mays was masterful. The Athletics’ bats were “helpless before the underhand pegger and all they could get was half a dozen scattered hits.”17 He walked two and struck out two. The Yankees won their fourth straight game over the Mackmen.
This was second time in his career that Meusel had hit for the cycle, collecting a home run, triple, double, and single in a game. His first feat was accomplished on May 7, 1921, against the Washington Senators (also an away game). Meusel became just the third batter since 1901 to accomplish this rare event twice (after the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Fred Clarke and St. Louis Browns’ George Sisler).
In 1922 four batters hit for the cycle: Ross Youngs (New York Giants, April 29), Jimmy Johnston (Brooklyn Robins, May 25), Ray Schalk (Chicago White Sox, June 27), and Meusel. Six seasons later, on July 26, 1928, Meusel became the first player in the modern era to hit for the cycle three times. John Reilly of the Cincinnati Reds also hit for the cycle three times — September 12, 1883, September 19, 1883, and August 6, 1890. Since Meusel’s trifecta, Babe Herman and Adrian Beltre have each hit for the cycle three times.
Regarding the Yankees, Bert Daniels was the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle (July 25, 1912). The next three cycles by a Yankees player were all accomplished by Meusel.
The Yankees’ batters were not the only ones who provided fireworks and excitement. In the fourth inning, there was a different kind of blast. The New York Herald chronicled that “one of the most popular of the local gunmen inadvertently dropped his automatic out of the upper tier of the grand stand. It fell into the dugout and was discharged. Fortunately it fell into the home team’s dugout and missed all of the players.”18 Amazingly, even with the scrambling in the Philadelphia dugout when the pistol fired, as players rushed to “crawl through cracks and knotholes to points of safety,”19 no one was injured. The Herald story incredibly explained that “an automatic would have to be aimed by an expert to hit any of them.”20 A local policeman reportedly told the gunman “to be more careful in the future. [Additionally,] it is believed that the Philadelphia Gunmen’s Association will suspend him for ten days for bringing undue notoriety to the profession.”21
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, sabr.org and retrosheet.org.
1 Harry Newman, “Ruth’s Homer No. 13 Features Swat Jamboree,” New York Daily News, July 4, 1922: 16.
2 Sullivan played part of one more season in the majors, 1923, in which he made three September appearances for the Cleveland Indians, pitching a total of five innings. He accrued one more loss, giving him a career record of 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA.
3 “Yanks Overwhelm Athletics by 12-1,” New York Times, July 4, 1922: 14.
4 “Philadelphia Gunman Does a Faux Pas in Shibe Park,” New York Herald, July 4, 1922: 11.
5 “Yanks Bump Macks; Take Another, 12-1,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 4, 1922: 10.
7 New York Times.
8 “The Home Run Contest,” Baltimore Sun, July 4, 1922: 8.
9 Newman. Ruth ended the season with 35 home runs, fourth best in the majors, but he did not catch those ahead of him. St. Louis Cardinals slugger Rogers Hornsby led all major leaguers with 42, followed by Ken Williams (39), Tillie Walker (37), and then Ruth.
10 New York Times.
11 Philadelphia Inquirer.
12 New York Herald.
13 New York Times.
14 In eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox (1914 through 1921), Everett Scott hit seven home runs in 1,096 games. He was traded to the Yankees on December 20, 1921, and finished 1922 with three home runs. In his 13-year career, Scott hit 20 home runs in 1,654 games.
15 New York Herald.
16 Philadelphia Inquirer.
18 New York Herald.