June 25, 1949: Gil Hodges hits for cycle as Dodgers, Pirates slug 9 home runs
Gil Hodges contributed five of Brooklyn’s 17 hits, leading the Dodgers to a 17-10 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field. A crowd of 19,800 was on hand to see both teams combine for 15 extra-base hits, including nine home runs, in an “exhibition of the so-called national pastime.”1 Although their home team did not win, “the loyal fans settled for some home runs and got more than their money’s worth”2 as the two teams came within one dinger of tying the record set by Pittsburgh and St. Louis on August 16, 1947 when the Pirates hit seven and the Cardinals three home runs. None of the homers were cheap shots, either, and the fans “moaned and cheered, depending on which side was hitting the ball out of the park at that moment.”3
The first-place Dodgers were in the midst of an 18-game road trip, and they were 5-5 coming into this contest. The Pirates were playing the 12th game of a 15-game homestand and not faring much better (6-5). Pittsburgh was stuck in seventh place in the National League and had only one winning month (July) all season. Ralph Branca pitched for Brooklyn. Despite staggering at times and yielding 10 runs on 12 hits and five walks, Branca pitched a complete game for the Dodgers, earning his ninth win of the season (against one loss). In the effort, he served up five round-trippers to the hometown team. His initial Pittsburgh opponent, Bob Chesnes, was not sharp, either, and didn’t make it out of the third inning.
Oddly, runs were scored only in odd-numbered innings. Each time the Dodgers scored, the Pirates answered with runs of their own, just not enough. To start the game, Pee Wee Reese singled on a bunt to the pitcher. Marv Rackley singled to center and Duke Snider walked. Chesnes walked Jackie Robinson with the bases loaded, giving him a run batted in, and after Hodges and Carl Furillo struck out, Billy Cox drove in the second Brooklyn run with the third walk of the inning.
Branca’s pitching in the bottom of the first resembled pregame batting practice. Stan Rojek drew a leadoff walk. Eddie Bockman tripled to right. Dino Restelli and Ralph Kiner each singled, and then Wally Westlake socked a home run. Branca walked Ed Stevens before retiring the side. Six consecutive batters reached safely, five of them scoring. Manager Burt Shotton stuck with Branca, though, despite the 5-2 deficit.
Both pitchers had 1-2-3 second innings, but then the Brooklyn bats exploded. After Snider struck out looking to open the third, Robinson and Hodges both singled, and Furillo and Cox both doubled. At this point, Pittsburgh skipper Billy Meyer yanked Chesnes and brought in Ray Poat to pitch. Poat struck out Roy Campanella but walked Branca. Reese hit a grounder to second for the potential final out, but “Monty Basgall fumbled Reese’s grounder and the parade was on.”4 Six unearned runs followed. Rackley and Snider each singled, and then Robinson homered, as he “lined the first pitch against the scoreboard and the fans moaned.”5 Cliff Chambers came on in relief, as Poat had retired only one of six batters and yielded five more Dodgers runs. Hodges greeted Chambers with a double, but Furillo grounded out to end the barrage. In the inning, 13 Dodgers paraded to home plate. Ten of them reached on eight hits, a walk, and an error. Brooklyn runners touched home plate nine times.
In the home half of the third, Ralph Kiner drove the ball deep into the seats, hitting the ballpark clock for his team-leading 17th home run. After Wally Westlake struck out, Ed Stevens “pumped his fourth [home run] into the upper tier of the right field stands.”6 The Pirates had scored twice but still trailed, 11-7.
The next odd inning was the fifth. Tommy Brown led off for the Dodgers, pinch-hitting for Rackley. Brown singled to left but was forced at second by a Snider groundball. Snider moved up a base when Jackie Robinson reached on an error by second baseman Basgall. Hodges then belted a three-run homer, his 10th of the campaign. Pittsburgh answered with two runs in its half of the fifth. Dino Restelli and Kiner hit back-to-back solo shots to start the inning. Kiner’s second round-tripper of the game “went far over the scoreboard.”7
In the seventh Hodges batted with two outs and belted a triple into right field, completing the cycle. Furillo hit a solo home run, making it a 16-9 game in favor of the Dodgers. This was the only odd inning in which Pittsburgh did not score.
To ice the cake, Hodges hit a two-out home run in the top of the ninth for Brooklyn’s 17thrun. Pittsburgh tallied its final run in its half of the ninth inning. Rojek singled and scored on a double to center by Bockman. According to the New York Times, “Snider made a spectacular leaping catch against the left center barrier of Bockman’s drive, crashed into the fence and dropped the ball, although almost catching it again in his bare hand before it hit the ground.”8 Had Snider not touched the ball, “it would have fallen into the bullpen”9 for the 10th home run of the game, tying the major-league record. Snider’s glove caught on the fencepost and was yanked off his hand, hanging there as he tried to make a play. The strap across the back of the glove had broken off.
Brooklyn’s win, combined with a Boston Braves triumph over St. Louis, gave the Dodgers sole possession of first place in the National League, a half-game ahead of the Cardinals. Four of the five homers by Pittsburgh were solo shots. Kiner matched Hodges with two home runs, but his two additional singles could not compete with Hodges’ cycle.
Hodges took a called strike three in the first before unleashing his bat on Pirates pitching. In his next five at-bats, he singled, doubled, homered, tripled, and homered again. Hodges, Robinson, Furillo, and Cox combined to drive in 14 of Brooklyn’s 17 runs. The quartet scored ten runs and banged out 11 hits. On the next day, June 26, Brooklyn kept its momentum going, sinking the Pirates, 15-3, before a crowd of close to 40,000. Hodges went 2-for-5. This cycle was the second of the 1949 season, following Pittsburgh’s Wally Westlake (June 14) and preceding one by Stan Musial (against the Dodgers on July 24).
On May 24 Branca had beat Chesnes and the Pirates, 6-1, pitching a complete game.10 Chesnes also lost to Brooklyn on June 6 and with this loss on June 25, Jack Hemon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette could accurately note, “the Dodgers (were) inflicting all the setbacks on his record.”11
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org. The game summary for Stan Musial’s cycle can be found at sabr.org.
1 Roscoe McGowen, “Dodgers Down Pirates, 17-10,” New York Times, June 26, 1949: S1.
2 Lester J. Biederman, “Dodgers Beat Bucs in Slugfest, 17-10,” Pittsburgh Press, June 26, 1949: 33.
3 Jack Hernon, “Bucs Bow, 17-10; Nine Homers Hit,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 26, 1949: 21.
10 Four days after this game, Branca hurled another complete game, as the Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-1. Branca earned his 10th victory, scattering five hits while walking five. In each of two starts after that game, he didn’t make it out of the second inning, losing to New York and Boston.