The Chicago Cubs were clinging to a slim lead atop the National League standings in July 1915 when they hosted the Cincinnati Reds in a two-day, four-game series. Two sets of doubleheaders had been scheduled on consecutive days. The two teams had met the previous week in Cincinnati, where they had faced off for five games that included two twin bills. Throw in another doubleheader and five overall games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in between the two Cincy series, and this meant that the Chicago pitching staff had to prepare for 14 games in 10 days. Three of the games were makeups from cancellations earlier in the season.
The Reds, meanwhile, had fallen to the bottom of the National League in May. By July, winning three out of five against the Cubs at home and then taking three of four from the Cardinals (including a doubleheader sweep on July 4) before this series had elevated the team to fifth place in the standings.
Columnist Jack Ryder of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that the “biggest crowd of the local season turned out to see the Cubs clinch their hold on first place, but what they observed was quite different.”1 The visiting Reds prevailed in both ends of the doubleheader. James Crusinberry of the hometown Chicago Tribune reported that “the west side leaders found they had been licked twice by the pesky Cincinnati Reds.”2
Chicago dropped the first game to Cincinnati, 8-5. The visitors scored five runs in the first inning and the home team scored four in the fifth frame, but most of the excitement took place in the bottom of the seventh inning. With the Reds leading 7-5, Chicago player-manager Roger Bresnahan “tried to make a play that isn’t in the book.”3 Bresnahan danced around the batter’s box with one out, trying to distract Reds pitcher Rube Benton. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Three balls had been called, and when Rube started his windup for the next heave Roger just jogged across the plate, tossed his bat away, and ran down to first base.”4 Home-plate umpire Ernie Quigley promptly called Bresnahan out for crossing the plate after the pitcher had started his delivery. Bresnahan raced back to home, and in an effort to argue with the umpire, stamped his spikes on the umpire’s feet. This riled the umpire, and he started to rush at Bresnahan but was held back by two players, including Benton. Bresnahan was banished from the field, and the police had to hold back fans so they would not “leap onto the field and take a hand in the affair.”5 The game settled down as best as could be expected, and the Reds held on to win.
In the second game, Reds second baseman Heinie Groh was the offensive star. He collected five hits: a home run, triple, double and two singles.
Righthander Red Ames toed the rubber for the Reds in the second game. His record was 1-4, and he brought an earned-run average of 4.24 into the contest. Ames was opposed by Chicago’s Jimmy Lavender. Primarily a relief pitcher, Lavender was making only his sixth start of the season (he had pitched on each of the two previous days), but his ERA was about half of Ames’s (2.17 coming into the game).
Chicago opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Cy Williams doubled and scored on Art Phelan’s single. The lead was short-lived, however. In the top of the third, Cincinnati put on a power display. Ames led off with an infield single. As Tommy Leach struck out, Ames stole second base. An out later, Ivey Wingo hit a ball that cleared the wall in right field, and the Reds had taken the lead. It was Wingo’s first home run of the season. Red Killefer kept the rally going with a double and then Groh, who had doubled in the second inning, drove a pitch to left field and raced around the bases, beating the relay to the plate for an inside-the-park home run.
The four-run inning marked the end for Lavender. When the Reds batted in the top of the fourth, southpaw George Pierce had taken over the mound duties for Chicago.
In the top of the fifth, Cincinnati added a run as Leach singled and advanced to second on Buck Herzog’s sacrifice. Killefer’s RBI single brought Leach around to score. Chicago answered in its half, when the Chicago hurler helped his own cause. Jimmy Archer and Pierce hit back-to-back doubles to cut Cincinnati’s lead back to three runs.
In the next frame, Groh kept up the attack. His triple, followed by Tommy Griffith’s single, made the score 6-2 in favor of the Reds. In the seventh the game was put away. Leach, Tommy Clarke (who had entered the game replacing catcher Wingo), Groh, and Griffith all singled, netting the Reds three more runs.
Ames held the Cubs in check for seven innings, and by that time, his teammates “had it so thoroughly sewed up that the pounding he got in the last two sessions did not hurt anything.”6 In the bottom of the eighth, Chicago used four hits and a walk to put three baserunners across home plate.
The ninth inning saw more runs scored. The Reds “made it an even dozen”7 with a free pass to Herzog and singles by Killefer, Groh, and Ivy Olson. Chicago tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little, too late. The Cubs put together three singles and a double by Heinie Zimmerman, resulting in two runs. The final score was Cincinnati 12, Chicago 7. The Reds had swept two doubleheaders in two days. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Winning four games in two days may have been a little out of our line in the past, but the boys assert that it is going to be a common practice with them in the future.”8 That prediction was not meant to be. The team went 1-10-1 in six doubleheaders from July 6 to July 29, before finally sweeping the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 1.
In addition to the 12 runs, Cincinnati batters “whaled the ball to safe ground eighteen times for a total of twenty-nine bases”9 (Groh had three of the six extra-base hits). Every player except Herzog had at least one hit (but Herzog did reach base on a walk). Killefer and Griffith each had three hits. Seven different players scored at least one run, and Groh crossed the plate four times. The Cubs pounded out 13 hits off Ames. Zimmerman was a home run shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 in the game. Pierce, in addition to pitching six innings, was 2-for-3 at the plate, with a double and a triple. Uncharacteristically, the Cubs made five errors in the field, contributing to the loss, although the box scores at Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference list all 12 Cincinnati runs as earned.
Ames earned just his second win of the year. He made three more appearances for Cincinnati, all in relief, before being sold to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 24. Lavender took the loss, with his record dropping to 3-4.
With his 5-for-5 performance, Groh raised his batting average 15 points (to .307) and his slugging percentage 40 points (to .407). He became the first player in either the American or National League to collect a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game since Pittsburgh Pirates star Honus Wagner hit for the cycle on August 22, 1912, a span of three seasons. [Note: Ed Lennox, of the Federal League’s Pittsburgh Rebels, hit for the cycle on May 6, 1914.] Three more seasons would pass before St. Louis Cardinals rookie Cliff Heathcote hit for the cycle on June 13, 1918, in his sixth major-league game, a 19-inning affair.
Groh’s accomplishment marked the seventh time a Cincinnati player had hit for the cycle. Three of those occurrences were by John Reilly (September 12, 1883, September 19, 1883, and August 6, 1890). The others were Bid McPhee (August 26, 1887), Tom Parrott (September 28, 1894), and Mike Mitchell (August 19, 1911). Reds fans would have to wait 25 years to see the next cycle, attained by Harry Craft on June 8, 1940.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, retrosheet.org and sabr.org. Play-by-play comes from the newspaper accounts cited in the Notes.
1 Jack Ryder, “Took Two,” Cincinnati Enquirer, July 6, 1915: 8.
2 James Crusinberry, “Reds Beat Cubs in Two Clashes Full of Turmoil,” Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1915: 13.