Jim Ray Hart (Trading Card DB)

July 8, 1970: Giants’ Jim Ray Hart drives in 6 runs in one inning, hits for cycle against Braves

This article was written by Mike Huber

Jim Ray Hart (Trading Card DB)Jim Ray Hart broke into the majors with the San Francisco Giants as a 21-year-old third baseman in 1963.1 From 1964 through 1967, he averaged 29 home runs per season, finishing in the top 10 in the majors three times. Accolades included placing second in the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year voting,2 receiving NL Most Valuable Player votes three times, and making the 1966 NL All-Star team.

According to Hart’s SABR biography, however, in 1968, “injuries and weight gain began getting in the way of his range and ability to stay on the field.”3 He also had problems with alcohol. Hart was limited to 95 games in 1969, when he injured his right shoulder early in the season, and he hit only three home runs. He began the 1970 season with Phoenix, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

Hart made his season debut with the Giants on July 7, and the next day, he tied an NL RBI record that had stood for almost 60 years. Was he back?

Hart’s Giants were in fourth place in the NL West Division, just behind the defending division champion Atlanta Braves, and both teams were struggling to gain ground in the standings. The Cincinnati Reds had held the top spot in the division standings for more than three months, as they cruised to their first NL pennant since 1961. The Braves had been in second place until they lost seven of eight games to finish June. San Francisco had swept four games from Atlanta in late June, but the Giants still were below .500 as they traveled on July 6 to Atlanta Stadium to begin another four-game series with the Braves.

The teams split the first two games of the series, with Atlanta winning the opener and San Francisco winning the second. Hart was hitless in four at-bats in the Giants’ 8-5 win on July 7.

For the series’ third contest, on July 8, two 31-year-old Cooperstown-bound pitchers faced each other on the mound: Atlanta’s Phil Niekro vs. San Francisco’s Gaylord Perry. Niekro had placed second in the 1969 NL Cy Young Award voting, and Perry would place second in the 1970 NL Cy Young voting.4 For their careers, Niekro pitched for 24 seasons, winning 318 games, while Perry pitched for 22 seasons, winning 314 games. Both pitchers had 13 seasons with at least 15 wins. Additionally, each pitcher was named to five All-Star teams.  

Each starting pitcher held his opponent hitless and scoreless in the first inning, although Niekro issued two walks and was helped by an inning-ending double play. In the second inning, Hart bounced a one-out ground-rule double over the right-field fence, but Niekro stranded him there by retiring the next two batters.

In the top of the third inning, the Giants broke the scoreless tie. Perry started things with a groundball to third baseman Bob Aspromonte, who threw the ball away; Perry was credited with a single and advanced a base on the error.

Bobby Bonds singled, sending Perry to third. Bonds then took off for second and recorded his second steal of the game and 29th of the season. One out later, Niekro walked Ken Henderson, loading the bases. After Willie McCovey struck out, Dick Dietz and Hart hit back-to-back RBI singles, with Hart’s hit banging off Aspromonte’s shoulder. Perry and Bonds scored, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead.

Through the first three frames, Perry retired nine Braves batters in a row. Atlanta’s Sonny Jackson led off with a single in the bottom of the fourth, but the score remained 2-0.

The rest of the game’s runs came in the fifth inning, when the Giants exploded for 11 runs, sending 15 batters to the plate. With one out, Niekro walked Henderson for the third time in the game. McCovey and Dietz each singled to right field, and Henderson scored. Hart drove one of Niekro’s knuckleballs into the left-field seats for a three-run home run, his first round-tripper in the big leagues since July 26, 1969.5 San Francisco’s lead was 6-0.

Frank Johnson singled, and right-hander Aubrey Gatewood was called in from Atlanta’s bullpen to relieve Niekro. Gatewood had appeared in 65 games (13 starts) for the Los Angeles Angels from 1963 to 1965, then was in the minors until the Braves called him up in June 1970. The 31-year-old Gatewood was making his third appearance of the season.6

Hal Lanier greeted Gatewood with a single, putting runners at the corners. Perry’s groundout to Gatewood brought Johnson home. Bonds singled, and Lanier scored, making it 8-0. Ron Hunt, who had been retired to start the inning, was hit by a pitch for the 17th time that season to keep the rally going.7

Willie Mays pinch-hit for Henderson, who had pulled a muscle earlier in the inning. The 39-year-old Mays had recorded his 2,991st career base hit – which was also his 618th career homer – in the series opener. He hit a pop fly to short left field. Braves shortstop Jackson went back to make the play but he collided with left fielder Rico Carty, and the ball landed safely, allowing both runners to score and Mays to end up at second.

Jackson was charged with an error, but there was reason to think it might be Mays’ 2,992nd base hit. According to the Oakland Tribune, “[T]he Atlanta official scorer said he planned to ask questions tonight, and there is a possibility his decision will be changed.”8 McCovey was intentionally walked, and Dietz worked a free pass to load the bases.

That brought up Hart for his second at-bat of the inning. The Giants had already built a 10-run advantage. Hart connected with a Gatewood knuckleball and sent it to the right-field wall, clearing the bases with a triple.9 With his two extra-base hits in the inning, Hart had completed hitting for the cycle. And he had done so before his team had finished batting in the fifth inning.

That brought Braves manager Lum Harris out to the mound for another pitching change. Rick Kester became the new Braves hurler. The right-hander had turned 23 the day before and was making his eighth appearance in his third season with the Braves.10 He retired Johnson on a fly ball to right, putting an end to the Giants’ runfest. Aided by three walks, a hit batsman, and two errors, San Francisco had scored 11 runs on just 7 hits.

Kester finished the game, pitching four more scoreless innings. Perry allowed only two singles the rest of the way, and the Giants won, 13-0. The San Francisco Examiner told its readers, “Lost somewhere in the excitement of Hart’s triumphant return from oblivion was Gaylord Perry’s 13th victory of the season. It was a very attractive five-hit shutout.”11 Only two Atlanta runners advanced as far as second base.

With his home run and triple, Hart drove in six runs in the fifth inning.12 This tied a National and American League record set in 1911 by another Giants player – Fred Merkle, when the Giants were still in New York. Hart finished the game with 10 total bases and seven RBIs.13 It was Hart’s only triple of the season and his first since 1968. Hart hit safely in his next 11 games, too, keeping his batting average near .400 (.396).

His accomplishment of the cycle was the 17th in Giants franchise history, dating back to Dave Orr’s six-hit cycle game for the New York Metropolitans on June 12, 1885. Hart’s performance marked the first time a San Francisco player had hit for the cycle.14

Five major-league batters hit for the cycle in 1970: Wes Parker (Los Angeles Dodgers, May 7), Rod Carew (Minnesota Twins, May 20), Tony Horton (Cleveland Indians, July 2), Tommie Agee (New York Mets, July 6), and Hart. Hart’s was the third cycle in a span of seven days.

“This was some way to come back,” Hart told reporters after the game, adding, “I was as nervous Tuesday night as I was the first game I played as a rookie. In a way this was like being a rookie a second time.”15 Braves star Hank Aaron praised Hart, saying, “Six RBIs – that’s a week’s worth in one inning. He’s young enough that he can come back from his arm injury and it looks like he has.”16

Regarding Atlanta’s effort, the Atlanta Constitution lamented that if the Braves continued to play the way they did in this game, “they’ll be so far back you can’t find them with a searchlight.”17 The 11 runs in the fifth were the most ever scored in a single inning at Atlanta Stadium.18 The Braves ended the season in fifth place in the NL West, 10 games below .500 (76-86). The Giants climbed to third, 10 games above .500 (86-76). Hart ended the season batting .282, with 8 homers in 76 games, of which 43 were starts.19



This article was fact-checked by Thomas J. Brown Jr. and copy-edited by Len Levin. 



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, Retrosheet.org and SABR.org.





1 Hart played seven games for the Giants in July and August 1963. His official rookie year was 1964.

2 Philadelphia’s Dick Allen was the overwhelming winner, with 90 percent of the first-place votes, but Hart and Milwaukee’s Rico Carty each received one first-place vote.

3 Bob Trostler, “Jim Ray Hart,” SABR Baseball Biography Project, accessed December 2023, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/jim-ray-hart/.

4 Gaylord Perry did win the Cy Young Award twice (in 1972 with the Cleveland Indians and in 1978 with the San Diego Padres).

5 The homerless drought spanned 73 games.

6 This turned out to be Gatewood’s final time on a major-league mound. He was sent back to the minors and played in 1971 for two teams in the Atlanta and St. Louis organizations.

7 In 1970 Hunt led the National League in HBP for the third time in what became seven consecutive seasons. Hunt finished his career with 243 HBP (sixth all-time) in 6,158 plate appearances (12 seasons).

8 Pat Frizzell, “Sauer Tip Aided Hart,” Oakland Tribune, July 9, 1970: 41. The Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Examiner, and Oakland Tribune show Jackson committing one error in their box scores. However, Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference both show two miscues. Mays stayed in the game, playing center, and went 0-for-3 with a run scored. (The error was not turned into a hit.) The Say Hey Kid joined the 3,000-Hit Club on July 18, 1970.

9 The Giants carried three knuckleballers on their pitching staff (Perry, Gatewood, and Hoyt Wilhelm).

10 Kester had also pitched against the Giants the day before (on his birthday). This turned out to be Kester’s final season in the majors. He pitched for the Triple-A Richmond Braves for the next three years.

11 Wells Twombly, “Jimmy Hart’s Desert Cure,” San Francisco Examiner, July 9, 1970: 45.

12 With the six runs batted in during the fifth inning, Hart tied a National and American League mark of most RBIs in an inning, set by Fred Merkle and tied by six American Leaguers. This mark was broken on April 23, 1999, when Fernando Tatis (St. Louis Cardinals) hit two grand slams in the same inning, giving him eight RBIs. Álex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) had seven RBIs on October 4, 2009, to set the American League record. “RBI Records/Runs Batted In Records,” Baseball-Almanac.com, accessed March 20, 2024, https://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_rbi1.shtml.

13 Hart had seven RBIs in this one game; he had driven in only 26 runs in 95 games in 1969.

14 The last Giants cycle before Hart’s came on July 11, 1954, when Don Mueller did it. In that game, Willie Mays just missed the honor, coming a triple short.

15 Twombly.

16 Associated Press, “Hart’s Comeback: Six RBI in Inning; Giants Romp,” Sacramento Bee, July 9, 1970: D1, D4.

17 Wayne Minshew, “Frisco and Hart Kayo Braves, 13-0,” Atlanta Constitution, July 9, 1970: 1-D.

18 Minshew. This figure is as of July 1970.

19 Recurrent shoulder and knee problems kept Hart in Triple A for much of 1971 and 1972, although he did play in 55 games for the Giants. See Trostler for details on Hart’s injuries. After the game, Hart told reporters, “My right shoulder still gives me a little trouble, but it’s not painful now.” See Frizzell. From Hart’s SABR biography: “Hart became one of the early beneficiaries of the American League’s new designated hitter rule on April 17, 1973, when, after 1,001 games as a Giant, he was sold to the Yankees.” In 1973, Hart played in 114 games for New York, batting .254. The Yankees released him in June 1974.

Additional Stats

San Francisco Giants 13
Atlanta Braves 0

Atlanta Stadium
Atlanta, GA


Box Score + PBP:

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