July 30, 1883: Philadelphia’s Lon Knight is first player to hit for a ‘natural’ cycle

This article was written by Bill Nowlin - Mike Huber

Lon Knight (Courtesy of John Thorn)Through the 2021 season, there were 334 cycles hit in major-league baseball games.1 The first one was hit by Curry Foley of the Buffalo Bisons on May 25, 1882. The second was hit by Lon Knight, the right fielder and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, on July 30, 1883. Knight, who was a native of Philadelphia, became the first player to accomplish the rare feat that we today term a “natural cycle,” meaning he got his hits in the order of total bases: first the single, then a double, then the triple, and finally the home run. In an American Association game in which Philadelphia demolished the Pittsburgh Allegheny Club, 17-4, Knight had five of his team’s 23 hits to pace the attack.

The Athletics had charged out of the gate with an 18-3 record during the month of May but had dropped off the pace. Standing at 38-18, the Athletics were second in the American Association standings, 1½ games behind the St. Louis Browns and 4½ games ahead of third-place Cincinnati.

It was an ideal day for baseball. Afternoon temperatures were in the mid-70s under fair/clear skies and an unseasonably low humidity of 60 percent. The game featured “fine fielding and heavy batting” by Philadelphia.2 There is no play-by-play available for the game, but according to newspaper accounts and the box scores, the home-team Athletics batted first, as they won the coin toss and elected to bat.3 Approximately 6,000 spectators packed the Jefferson Street Grounds to watch the match, and “the enthusiasm was kept up throughout the game.”4 Starting for St. Louis was right-handed rookie Bob Barr.5

Philadelphia wasted no time and put three runs across the plate in the first inning. With one out, Harry Stovey singled and stole second. Knight followed with an RBI single to center. Knight then stole second. Barr walked Mike Moynahan and Jack O’Brien, loading the bases. Fred Corey laced a double, plating two runners.6 Barr then worked out of the jam, holding the damage to three runs.

Right-hander Bobby Mathews pitched for the Athletics. The Athletics’ diminutive 31-year-old ace, who had come over from the National League’s Boston Red Stockings, was in the process of resurrecting his career, which had been sidetracked by a sore arm.7

The visitors put runners on base in each of the first two innings but did not capitalize. In the top of the third, Knight doubled to right field. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and came home when O’Brien tripled. The Athletics added two runs in the fourth, even though Knight popped out to Barr. In the bottom half, Joe Battin “sent the ball over [Bob] Blakiston’s head for a home run.”8 The score was now 6-1, Athletics.

In the top of the sixth, Mathews reached on an error by third baseman Battin. Barr threw another wild pitch, moving Mathews up a base. Stovey doubled to left, driving in his pitcher. Knight “followed with a hit to center field for three bases”9 and a run batted in, and then he scored on a fly out by Moynahan. Three more runs for the home team.

Stovey led off the top of the eighth with a single and trotted home on “Knight’s terrific line hit to extreme left center for a home run.”10 Knight had just hit for a natural cycle. O’Brien scored on a hit by Corey. The Allegheny club posted two runs in its half of the eighth, on two hits, a passed ball, a walk, and an error.

The game was out of reach in the ninth, but Philadelphia was not finished. Consecutive singles by George Bradley, Mathews, and Jud Birchall loaded the bases. Stovey lined a single to center, and two runners came home. Knight followed with his second two-bagger, adding two more runs batted in to his line for the day. For the visitors, Ed Swartwood and Billy Taylor singled to start the last of the ninth, and Swartwood scored the game’s final run on a passed ball. The game ended with a score of 17-4. Only 12 of Philadelphia’s runs were earned, and only two of Pittsburgh’s.

The Philadelphia Inquirer informed its readers that three Athletic players, Knight, Stovey, and O’Brien, starred on offense, and that Knight made “a total of eleven bases, on a home run, a three-bagger, and two doubles.”11 However, the paper’s box score listed him with five hits and 12 total bases (which accounted for the missing single). The Times, also a Philadelphia newspaper, gave its readers the straight scoop, noting that “Knight led for the home club in work with the willow, making a single, two two-baggers, a triple-bagger and a home run.”12 In addition to accomplishing the rare feat of hitting for the cycle, Knight had scored five runs and had driven in six.

Further, “the heavy batting of the home club really demoralized the visitors and their fielding was not first-class by any means.”13 The Athletics had six runners reach because of Pittsburgh errors. Every Philadelphia player except Blakiston got at least one hit. Mathews picked up the victory. By the end of the season, Mathews had pitched 381 innings and finished with a record of 30-13, the most victories he had posted in nine years. For the losers, Barr ended the 1883 campaign with a record of 6-18. One bright spot for the Alleghenys was that four batters – Swartwood, Taylor, Battin, and Frank McLaughlin – each collected two hits.

First baseman Stovey was was 5-for-6 with a double in this contest. Although he didn’t homer in this game, Stovey’s 14 round-trippers set a league record for the most home runs in a season, eclipsing Boston Red Stockings left fielder Charley Jones’s 1879 mark of 9.14 O’Brien, the team’s catcher, was 4-for-5 with a triple.

As of the end of the 2021 season, only 16 batters have hit for the cycle in natural order, an achievement rarer than a perfect game.15 The most recent was the Texas Rangers’ Gary Matthews Jr., who accomplished the feat on September 13, 2006, in a game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Montreal’s Brad Wilkerson is the only player to accomplish a natural cycle in just four plate appearances.16

The 30-year-old Knight had been playing professional baseball since 1875, but this was his first season with Philadelphia’s Athletic Club.17 On a team that batted .262 for the season, Knight’s .252 average was only seventh-best among the regular players. This was his only home run of the season and just the second of his eight-year career, but it was enough to hit for the cycle.18

The umpire was listed as John O. “Kick” Kelley and the game lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes, prolonged by the 23 base hits and two or three bases on balls collected by the Athletics.19 The Allegheny club had nine hits. The win by the Athletic club, coupled with a 6-5 loss by the Browns to the Eclipse of Louisville, saw the Athletics take first place in the standings, by the narrowest of margins, .684 to .683.20 They were still two games behind the Browns in wins but had two fewer losses. By season’s end, the 66-32 Athletics edged the 65-33 Browns by exactly one game, five games ahead of third-place Cincinnati.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the notes, the authors consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.



1 A good listing of cycles is available at baseball-almanac.com/hitting/Major_League_Baseball_Players_to_hit_for_the_cycle.shtml. Twenty-six players have hit for the cycle more than once. See a listing at mlb.com/news/players-who-hit-for-multiple-cycles-c295035814. Four are “tricyclists” – each with three cycles to his credit: John Reilly, Bob Meusel, Babe Herman, and Adrian Beltre. One cycle has been hit in postseason play – by Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox on October 6, 2018. It was the second cycle for Holt – his first was on June 16, 2015. Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers hit for the cycle twice in a 20-day stretch (August 29 and September 17, 2018).

2 “Base Ball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 31, 1883: 2.

3 “Heavy Work at the Bat,” Philadelphia Times,  July 31, 1883: 4.

4 Philadelphia Inquirer.

5 The Alleghenys finished in seventh place in the eight-team league, with a record of 31-67.

6 The Inquirer says it was hit down the right-field foul line, but the Times said it was the left-field foul line.

7 Mathews was 5 feet 5½ inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds.

8 “Base Ball.”

9 “Base Ball.”

10 “Base Ball.”

11 “Base Ball.”

12 “Heavy Work at the Bat.”

13 “Heavy Work at the Bat.”

14 Stovey held the single-season home-run record for just one year. In 1884 Chicago White Stockings third baseman Ned Williamson socked 27 home runs, a single-season mark that stood for 35 years until 1919, when Boston Red Sox outfielder and pitcher Babe Ruth hit 29. Stovey was also the major leagues’ career home-run leader from 1889 through 1894, when he retired with 122.

15 Given the available play-by-play data. The 15 players who hit for a natural cycle are:

Lon Knight, Philadelphia (AA), July 30, 1883

Pete Browning, Louisville (AA), August 8, 1886

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), April 27, 2000

Brad Wilkerson, Montreal (NL), June 24, 2003

Gary Matthews Jr., Texas (AL), September 13, 2006

16 Mabry and Matthews had the four different hits in just four at-bats, but each also drew a walk in the game.

17 Knight played in 1875 and 1876, but then played on minor-league clubs in New England until he returned to the National League in 1880. He retired after the 1885 season.

18 Knight hit two home runs in a three-year American Association career and one in his five years in the National League.

19 Accounts differ.

20 retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1883/07301883.htm#1.

Additional Stats

Philadelphia Athletics 17
Pittsburgh Alleghenys 4

Jefferson Street Grounds
Philadelphia, PA

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