Ken Boyer collected his first career five-hit game in propelling the St. Louis Cardinals to victory over the Chicago Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader at Busch Stadium before a crowd of 5,835. Four of those five hits enabled him to hit for the cycle. He had two hits in the opener as well, contributing to another Cardinals win and giving him a 7-for-11 day at the plate.
In game one of the doubleheader, Boyer singled in the fourth inning and stroked a two-run triple in the fifth. Sammy Taylor and George Altman homered for the Cubs, while hometown favorite Stan Musial went 3-for-4 with a home run for St. Louis. The Cardinals won on a bizarre walk-off play. In a tie game, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jimmie Schaffer came to bat for the Cardinals. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Barney Schultz’s puzzling knuckler slithered away as a passed ball in the ninth inning while Bob Lillis scored,” suddenly giving St. Louis an 8-7 victory.1
Game two featured Curtis versus Curtis. The Cardinals started Curt Simmons and the Cubs sent Jack Curtis to the mound. In four previous starts against the Cubs in 1961, Simmons had allowed 14 earned runs in 23⅔ innings.2 He fared slightly better in this game, allowing five runs (two earned) in 4⅔ innings. Simmons finished the season with a 3.13 earned-run average, third best in the National League. He seemed to like pitching in his home park. In 16 starts that season at Busch Stadium, Simmons had six complete games and two shutouts. (By contrast, he did not have any complete games while pitching on the road.)
Jack Curtis was a 24-year-old Cubs rookie in 1961. He started 27 games and allowed 220 hits in 180⅓ innings. His earned-run average hovered between 4.00 and 5.00 all season. Curtis liked pitching in Wrigley Field, with four complete games, but at Busch Stadium he struggled, with a 5.25 ERA.3
The Cardinals struck first, in the bottom of the opening inning. Julian Javier walked with one out and scored when Bill White tripled to right field. Boyer’s single to left scored White. In the third Boyer singled again, this time with two outs, but the Cardinals did not score.
Chicago plated two runs in the top of the fourth. Billy Williams doubled to center field and scored when Ernie Banks doubled to right. Ron Santo singled, advancing Banks to third base, and Altman brought Banks home with a sacrifice fly. The score was tied. St. Louis responded by manufacturing a run in its half of the fourth. Don Taussig walked, stole second, and scored on a single by Curt Flood.
The seesaw scoring continued in the fifth inning. Williams reached on a two-out error by first baseman White. Banks reached on an infield single, and then Santo deposited a Simmons pitch beyond the fence in deep left field to give Chicago a 5-3 lead. Altman singled and Simmons, “victim of three unearned runs, soon was on his way to the showers.”4 Bob Miller came on in relief and shut the door on the Cubs, allowing just one hit and two walks as he pitched through the eighth inning.
Meanwhile, Curtis allowed a solo home run to Charlie James in the bottom of the fifth (after Boyer had grounded out and Gene Oliver had flied out), and St. Louis was within one run. Curtis scattered 10 hits and gave up three walks in 6⅓ innings, but he left in the seventh with the lead. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Boyer sent a shot to left field and legged out a triple, but Bob Anderson came on in relief for Chicago and retired the next two batters. Anderson continued to keep the Cards batters in check until the bottom of the ninth. With St. Louis trailing by one run, White coaxed a one-out walk. Boyer delivered an opposite-field double into the right-field corner, driving in White with the tying run and sending the game into extra innings.
Cubs manager El Tappe inserted Don Elston to pitch the bottom of the 11th inning. Boyer, leading off, smashed a home run, driving an Elston slider onto the right-field roof and giving the Cardinals their second walk-off victory of the day.5 Boyer became the first major-league player to complete the cycle with a walk-off home run.6
The Cubs had rallied from behind four times in the doubleheader, but had managed to lose both games in walk-off fashion. The doubleheader featured 15 runs and 20 hits in the first game and 11 runs and 23 hits in the second. The Cubs left 23 runners on base in the two contests. (The Cardinals stranded 20.) The first game started at 5:30 P.M., and Boyer’s solo blast closed the doubleheader almost seven hours later, at 12:21 A.M.
Boyer, team captain and a perennial All-Star7 and Gold Glove Award winner for the Cardinals, posted his highest batting average in 1961, finishing the season at .329, the third best in the National League (behind Roberto Clemente and Vada Pinson). After the game, Boyer told reporters, “I’ve always had one bad month a season until this year,”8 adding that he was worried more about his team getting into the first division than with his chances of increasing his batting average to .340. He added, “Maybe we can waltz into third place, and a $1,200 slice wouldn’t be a bad Christmas present. And then we’d know we’d go into next season with a good club.”9
Boyer’s rare feat was the only cycle of the 1961 season. It came 13 months after his teammate White hit for the cycle against the Pittsburgh Pirates. On June 16, 1964, Boyer again defied the odds and hit for the cycle again, this time against the Houston Colt .45s. This second accomplishment was a natural cycle.10 Boyer is the only Cardinals player to ever hit for the cycle twice.
This article appears in “Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis: Home of the Browns and Cardinals at Grand and Dodier” (SABR, 2017), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. Click here to read more articles from this book online.
1 Richard Dozer, “Cubs Add Two Verses to the St. Louis Blues,” Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1961.
2 Simmons had been a three-time All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1950s. For his career, Simmons had a 193-183 record, coupled with a 3.54 earned-run average. He pitched 163 complete games.
3 Curtis pitched only three seasons in the major leagues, compiling a 14-19 record and a 4.84 ERA. He had six complete games and finished third in the 1961 Rookie of the Year voting in the National League.
4 Neal Russo, “Boyer’s Seven Hits Help Cards Beat Cubs Twice, 8-7, 6-5,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15, 1961: 22.
6 https://retrosimba.com/2015/04/20/ken-boyer-added-special-twists-to-rare-pair-of-cycles/. Accessed April 14, 2016. Since Boyer’s walk-off cycle in 1961, four other ballplayers have completed their cycles with a walk-off home run: César Tovar (Minnesota Twins, September 19, 1972), George Brett (Kansas City Royals, May 28, 1979), Dwight Evans (Boston Red Sox, June 28, 1984), and Carlos González (Colorado Rockies, July 31, 2010).
7 There were two All-Star Games played in 1961: on July 11 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and on July 31 at Fenway Park in Boston. The Cardinals were represented in both games by White (who started at first base), Musial, and Boyer. White was a combined 3-for-7 with two runs batted in, while Musial and Boyer were hitless. Ernie Banks, George Altman, and Don Zimmer were the Cubs players in the two midseason classics. The 1961 NL Rookie of the Year, Billy Williams, was not selected to the National League’s squad.
10 A “natural cycle” is accomplished when the batter hits a single, double, triple, and home run in that exact order.