June 9, 1912: Boston's Tris Speaker hits for the cycle against Browns
Boston’s Tris Speaker, described in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as “the greatest center fielder playing the game today,”1 led the Red Sox in a 9-2 romp over the St. Louis Browns, as he hit for the cycle, collecting a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. The 1912 American League Bostonians were in St. Louis for the first of a four-game series, as part of a 25-game road trip that stretched through most of June (from June 1-27). The second-place Red Sox had only won three of their previous eight games against the Cleveland Naps and Detroit Tigers but had actually picked up ground on the first-place Chicago White Sox, who had gone 2-6 in the same span. A crowd of approximately 8,500 fans turned out to Sportsman’s Park for the Sunday afternoon contest.
The Browns were dead last in the league with a record of 14-32. After 40 games (on June 1), their player-manager Bobby Wallace was replaced by first baseman George Stovall as player-manager (although Wallace continued with the team, playing shortstop). When the Red Sox came to town, the Browns had been playing at home for 14 games, with six more to play before hitting the road.
Boston’s player-manager Jake Stahl tagged rookie righty Hugh Bedient to start the game. This was just his sixth career start and 12th overall appearance in the big leagues. He was seeking his seventh win of the season. For the Browns, Roy Mitchell got the nod. The right-hander from Belton, Texas, had won his only decision of the year in his previous start against the Philadelphia Athletics.
The home team broke through first in the bottom of the second. Wallace singled up the middle. With one out, Mitchell helped his own cause with a “vicious liner that [left fielder Duffy] Lewis blocked and shot to [Heinie] Wagner, who threw over [Bill] Carrigan’s head.”2 Burt Shotton followed with a single but Mitchell was gunned down at home plate on a fine throw by Lewis, so the Browns had to settle for one run.
Speaker, who had doubled but was stranded in the first inning, tied the game in the top of the fourth with a solo home run off of Mitchell, driven deep into the right field seats. In the next inning, Boston scored three more times. Wagner drew a free pass and Carrigan “bounced one that [Jimmy] Austin couldn’t handle,”3 putting two runners on base. Both runners advanced on Bedient’s sacrifice bunt. Harry Hooper then grounded another ball to Austin at third, and the Browns caught Carrigan in a rundown, with Wagner staying at third and Hooper running all the way to second on the play. Marty Krug singled, good for two runs batted in, and then Speaker “cracked the ball for three sacks,”4 to “put the game away.”5
In the seventh inning, the Red Sox crashed the scoreboard again. Bedient opened the inning with a sharp single to right. An out later, Krug singled. Speaker struck out and then Lewis “uncorked a four-ply wallop,”6 increasing Boston’s advantage to 7-1. It was his first home run of the season. The ball “took a leap over Shotton’s head just as he was [set] for the stop and rolled to the fence”7 for an inside-the-park three-run homer.
In the final frame, Boston lashed out against Mitchell one more time. Krug doubled off the centerfield fence and Speaker singled him home. He advanced to second on Lewis’ ground out and then scored on a wild pitch by Mitchell, creating the ninth run of the game for Boston.
The Browns “had numerous opportunities to score but missed them.”8 St. Louis loaded the bases in the fourth. With two outs, “Hooper raced in front of a drive from Shotton’s bat and cut off a trio of tallies.”9 Boston turned a rally-killing double play in the sixth. Bedient then walked Jim Stephens and Mitchell before “[umpire] Francis [Silk] O’Loughlin had to help spoil matters by calling a poor third strike on Shotton.”10 The Browns did get a run in the seventh, as Stovall doubled to drive in Willie Hogan, who had reached via a base on balls. Then Del Pratt lined a ball down the first base line that looked like a sure triple, but “Stahl stuck out his gloved hand and speared [the] drive.”11 St. Louis batters banged out 10 hits in the game off of Bedient, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “Stahl was ready to give Bedient the hook at any stage [given] the fact that Eddie Cicotte was kept on the pan in right field all afternoon.”12
The win kept Boston within a game of Chicago, and the next day, after the Red Sox defeated the Browns 3-2, they were tied with the White Sox, who had lost to the New York Highlanders, 5-1. The Red Sox never left the top spot after that. They swept the four-game series from the Browns and won 14 of 15 from the last game in Detroit on June 8, establishing a 5.5-game lead and continuing to win from there.
Speaker, known in Boston as “the Texas flyer,”13 had been flirting with a .400 batting average since early May. On May 2, he went 3-for-5 in a game against the Washington Senators and then put together a 12-game hitting streak, raising his average from .315 to .398. On May 27, he started another streak, and it was at 14 games when Boston faced the Browns in this game, and Speaker was still hot, hitting .394.14 After this cycle performance, he raised his average to .405. His on-base plus slugging percentage stood at 1.049 through his team’s first 47 games.
The St. Louis Star and Times made light of Speaker’s performance against their Browns, reporting, “Tris Speaker, who was only slightly in advance of the rest of his mates in the matter of hits, had a dull day, getting only four out of five. These were a homer, a triple, a double and a single.”15 Playing in just his fourth major league game, Red Sox second baseman Krug went 3-for-4 with a walk. He “came though with a pair of singles and double,”16 and he scored three and drove in two runs. In the third inning, while sliding into second base, “his ankle was wrenched and he played the game out limping.”17
Speaker was only the third player in Boston Red Sox history to hit for the cycle. His feat came 11 years after both Buck Freeman (June 21, 1903, against the Cleveland Naps) and Patsy Dougherty (July 29, 1903, against the New York Highlanders). Further, Speaker was the first of four players to hit for the cycle in 1912. The others were New York Giants’ Chief Meyers, who collected his four different hits the very next day (June 10) against the Chicago Cubs, New York Highlanders’ Bert Daniels (July 25 against the Chicago White Sox) and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Honus Wagner (August 22 against the New York Giants).
The 1912 Red Sox finished the season in first place and went on to beat the New York Giants in the World Series. Speaker was a big component of that title, leading all of Boston’s position players with his .300 batting average in the Series and tying teammate Harry Hooper with a series-high nine hits. The “greatest center fielder playing the game” won the Chalmers Award in 1912 as the American League’s “most important and useful player to the club and to the league.”18
In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, retrosheet.org and sabr.org.
1 “Red Sox War Clubs Pound Mitchell Savagely; Bedient Is Well Supported,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 10, 1912: 12.
2 T. H. Murnane, “Fans Cheer Speaker,” Boston Globe, June 10, 1912: 7.
6 Ray Webster, “Hall and Hamilton Slated for Work,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 10, 1912: 8.
7 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
9 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
14 Speaker ended the 1912 season batting .383. He was batting .400 as late as August 31. He finished third in the majors, behind Ty Cobb (.409) and Shoeless Joe Jackson (.395). Speaker led the American League in on-base percentage, with a mark of .464.
16 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Krug had been selected by the Red Sox in the September 1, 1911, major league draft, and he played his first game on May 29, 1912. He appeared in 20 games for Boston, batting .308, and then was sold to Indianapolis of the American Association in 1913. According to Tom Hawthorn’s SABR biography of Krug, he “lingered for a decade” in the minors before returning to the Major Leagues in 1922 to play one season for the Chicago Cubs.
18 Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer (2007). The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia (Fourth ed.). New York: Sterling Publishing Co. p. 1764-1765. Speaker was just the second player to be awarded the Chalmers Award, presented to the “most important and useful player to the club and to the league” by Chalmers Automotive, a Detroit-based automotive company. The Detroit Tigers’ Ty Cobb won the inaugural award in 1910 (when it was supposed to be awarded to the player with the highest batting average), the Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson won in 1913, and the Philadelphia Athletics’ Eddie Collins won in 1914, before the award was discontinued.