This article was written by Mike Huber
As June 1925 began, the race in the National League was close, but not that close. The four-time defending NL champion New York Giants held a 4½-game lead over the Brooklyn Robins. The Pittsburgh Pirates were in third place, and the Philadelphia Phillies were one spot back of the Pirates, tied with the Cincinnati Reds, eight games behind the Giants. On June 4 the Pirates (21-18) and Phillies (20-20) opened a three-game series. This marked the start of both a 23-game road trip for Philadelphia and a 15-game homestand for Pittsburgh.
A crowd of 4,000 fans braved the “sizzling heat”1 at Forbes Field to watch their Pirates “plaster the pesky pill incessantly,”2 pounding out 18 hits and smothering the visiting Phillies, 16-3. As part of the excitement, Pirates right fielder Hazen “Kiki” Cuyler hit for the cycle.
Right-hander Lee Meadows started for the Pirates. In his 11th season,3 the veteran was 6-2 with a 3.95 earned-run average to this point in the season. Philadelphia’s Jack Knight “was the first of the four moundsmen introduced by skipper Arthur Fletcher.”4 Knight, a southpaw, was a rookie in 1925,5 making just his fifth start of the season. He brought a 4-1 record and 4.75 ERA into the contest.
With two down in the bottom of the first, Cuyler “crashed a furious liner”6 past Phillies second baseman Lew Fonseca into the gap in right center, and Cuyler tore around the bases. Edward F. Balinger of the Pittsburgh Daily Post reported that Cuyler “flashed over the goal in time to be credited with a home run inside the lot,”7 giving the Pirates a lead they would not relinquish.
In the top of the third, the Philadelphia offense responded. After Knight flied out, George Burns singled to center. Fonseca then singled to right, allowing Burns to continue to third base. Cy Williams also singled, giving the Phillies their first run. (Fonseca stopped at second base.) With still only one out, George Harper smacked a ball to deep right field. According to the Pittsburgh Daily Post, Cuyler raced back toward the fence and “plucked [the] murderous clout off the wall with one hand and followed this amazing feat by engineering a double play.”8 His throw back into the infield was relayed from second baseman Eddie Moore to shortstop Glenn Wright, who tagged second base before Fonseca could get back. The Phillies’ rally was squelched.
In the home half, the Pirates said “good Knight”9 to the Phillies starter. The fans greeted Cuyler with “a rousing outburst of well-deserved cheers”10 as he led off the inning. He drew a walk. Wright hit a grounder to shortstop Heinie Sand, who bobbled the ball, and both runners were safe. Pie Traynor laid down a sacrifice bunt, putting Cuyler and Wright in scoring position. With Bigbee batting, Knight uncorked a wild pitch, and both Cuyler and Wright scored. Bigbee then doubled to left-center, and Fletcher made a pitching change. He ordered Huck Betts in from the bullpen to relieve Knight. Grantham singled, sending Bigbee to third. Bigbee scored as Smith grounded out to second base. The Pirates had tallied three more runs, two of which were unearned.
Meadows mowed down the Phillies in order in the fourth, bringing his teammates back to the plate in a hurry. Max Carey walked and with the hit-and-run play on,11 Moore singled. After Cuyler flied out, Wright walked to load the bases. Traynor sealed the Phillies’ fate by popping a double down the right-field line. Right fielder Williams’s throw the second to get Traynor was wide of the bag, and Traynor continued running until he crossed home plate. Four runs were tallied, giving Pittsburgh a 10-1 lead. Only two of the four runs were earned.
Meadows lost some of his control in the top of the fifth. Russ Wrightstone, pinch-hitting for Clarence Huber, singled to right. Betts also singled, and an out later Burns walked to load the bases. Williams also drew a free pass, bringing in Wrightstone, but then Meadows retired both Harper and Chicken Hawks on popouts to Pittsburgh third baseman Traynor.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cuyler singled and stole second base, allowing him to score on Bigbee’s short fly to center (some accounts claim Burns dropped the ball, but Bigbee was credited with an RBI single. Grantham then drove a triple to left-center, plating Bigbee.
In the seventh inning, Philadelphia notched its third and final run, as Burns, Williams, and Hawks each singled. (Hawks’s safety up the middle drove in Burns.) When their turn came, the Pirates piled on some more runs. Rookie Skinny O’Neal replaced Betts on the mound, making just his sixth appearance in the big leagues.12 Meadows singled, Carey walked, and Moore singled to left, with Meadows scoring. Cuyler slashed a fly ball to deep center. The ball bounced off the fence and Cuyler legged out a triple, driving in both runners. He then scored on Traynor’s single, making the score 16-3.
The Pirates rallied again in the eighth, this time against Dutch Ulrich, the fourth Phillies pitcher and the second rookie hurler of the game. Carey beat out a bunt for a single and Cuyler doubled to right. However, both runners were stranded when Wright flied out to end the inning. Cuyler’s two-bagger gave him four hits and the distinction of hitting for the cycle.
The Phillies were three-up, three-down in the ninth, ending the slaughter. For the Phillies, the “four alien hurlers”13 allowed 18 hits and six bases on balls to the Pittsburgh batters. Only Ulrich escaped run-free. Williams had the best day at the plate for Philadelphia, going 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told its readers that “Carey, Moore and Cuyler at the top of the Pirate order made enough runs to win a couple of games.”14 They totaled eight runs scored. Every starter had at least one hit, and Cuyler, Traynor, and Smith each knocked in three runs. Meadows earned his fourth straight win of the season and seventh overall.
Cuyler, referred to in the Pittsburgh newspapers as “the Michigan greyhound,”15 had hit for the cycle, collecting a home run, single, triple, and double in five official at-bats (he added a walk and stolen base, too). He scored four times and drove in three runs. He raised his batting average from .338 to .352, and his slugging percentage shot up 45 points, to .623. In 1925 the future Hall of Famer led the National League in games played (153), plate appearances (701), runs scored (144), and triples (26). His on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) was a whopping 1.021 (the best mark in his 18-season career). Cuyler was also named an outfielder on The Sporting News Major League All-Star team for 1925.16
Cuyler accomplished the eighth cycle in Pirates franchise history, behind Fred Carroll (May 3, 1887), Fred Clarke (July 23, 1901, and May 7, 1903), Chief Wilson (July 3, 1910), Honus Wagner (August 22, 1912), Dave Robertson (August 30, 1921), and Traynor (July 7, 1923, also in a rout over the Phillies). Cuyler’s teammate Carey attained the rare feat 14 games later, on June 20. The two were joined by Boston’s Roy Carlyle as the only three batters to hit for the cycle in 1925.
Pittsburgh took two of three in this series from Philadelphia and 11 of 15 during the extended homestand, climbing to second place. By June 29 they had gained the top spot, and by August 3 Pittsburgh had captured first place for good after sweeping the Phillies in a doubleheader at Forbes Field.17 Meanwhile, the Phillies went 9-14 while on the road and fell into sixth place in the National League standings; they finished the season there.
As much as I’d like to find a connection, Clarence Huber, Philadelphia’s third baseman, is not related to me. Although he was 0-for-1 in this game, he had his best season (statistically) in 1925 for the Phillies, batting .284 and driving in 54 runs.
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org.
1 Edward F. Balinger, “Pirates Slug Way to 16-3 Conquest over Quaker Crew,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 5, 1925: 11.
3 Meadows had pitched for the Phillies from 1919 to 1923, amassing 48 victories. According to Retrosheet, the Phillies traded Meadows with Johnny Rawlings on May 23, 1923, to the Pirates, for Whitey Glazner, Cotton Tierney, and $50,000.
5 Knight had played in one game in September 1922 for the St. Louis Cardinals, pitching four innings and allowing four earned runs. He then did not return to the majors until the 1925 season. The Phillies selected him from Houston on October 8, 1924, in the Rule 5 major-league draft.
11 “Pirate Game in Detail,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 5, 1925: 12.
12 O’Neal played just two seasons in the majors, both for the Phillies. He pitched in 13 total games and did not earn a decision. He retired with a career 9.24 ERA.
14 “Cuyler Tops Vicious Buc Attack with Four Drives,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 5, 1925: 11.
15 “Cuyler Tops Vicious Buc Attack with Four Drives.”
17 Pittsburgh defeated the Washington Senators in seven games to win the 1925 World Series. Cuyler, a .357 hitter during the regular season, batted .269 in the fall classic.