Quasi-Cycles — Better than Cycles?
This article was published in the Fall 2017 Baseball Research Journal.
One of baseball’s most highly regarded accomplishments by an individual player is hitting for the cycle: collecting at least one of each of the four types of safe hits (single, double, triple, and home run) in the same game. While recognized as a rare and remarkable feat, the cycle has been achieved 286 times during the history of Major League Baseball, according to MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball. MLB.com presents a team-by-team list of (supposedly all) players who have hit for the cycle in the American and National Leagues through the 2016 season.1However, cycles achieved in the defunct American Association (1882–91), Union Association (1884), Players League (1890), and Federal League (1914–15) are not included. Fortunately, other sources such as The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book (1993) and The (Sporting News) 2008 Complete Baseball Record Book do include cycles hit in these leagues.2,3 Thus, according to Retrosheet, 313 major-league cycles have been identified 1876–2016: 159 in the National League, 134 in the American League, 18 in the American Association, one in the Players League, and one in the Federal League.4 All of these cycles have come in the regular season; there has not yet been a postseason cycle.
What makes the cycle special? For collectors of anything — Norman Rockwell calendars, Betty Crocker cookbooks, Red Man Tobacco baseball cards, etc. — there is a special satisfaction when the collector succeeds in completing the entire set. Achieving a complete set of each type of safe hit in the same game provides an analogous feeling, and the rarity of the occurrence makes it feel exceptional. More importantly, however, the cycle is special because it achieves each of the three tools of offense: (1) hitting for average, i.e. collecting four hits in four — or five or so — at bats; (2) hitting for power, i.e. collecting three long hits with a total of six extra bases — one from the double, two from the triple, and three from the homer; and (3) baserunning skill and speed, i.e. a double and a triple in the collection of hits, which requires three baserunning bases — one from the double and two from the triple. (Not to mention that some singles — bunt singles and scratch infield singles — also require baserunning prowess and speed.)
Now, since a batter’s primary objective is to get on base and ultimately make his way around the bases and touch home plate to count a run — irrefutably baseball’s most important statistic — it stands to reason that a priori a double is more valuable than a single, and a triple is more valuable than a double, and a homer is more valuable than a triple. With that premise, let’s consider the following:
Player A has a game batting line of two doubles, one triple, and one homer. Player B has a final batting line of one single, one double, one triple, and one homer — i.e., Player B has hit for the cycle. As it is now — and has been for decades — Player B gets special recognition by being eternally listed in baseball’s record books for the feat. In contrast, Player A merely gets a fleeting “atta boy!” before his accomplishment vanishes into obscurity. (See the “Cycles and the Record Books” sidebar below.) Shouldn’t there be some long-lasting special recognition for the superb performance of Player A? What about an enduring special acknowledgment for the player who collected one double, two triples, and one homer — but no single? Or the player who connected for one two-baser, one three-baser, and two four-basers — but no one-baser? Each of these combinations is just like the traditional cycle, except that the cycle’s single has been replaced by a more valuable hit — an extra-base hit. Let’s call these accomplishments quasi-cycles — four long hits in a game with at least one double, at least one triple, and at least one homer.5,6
The quasi-cycle embodies all of the definitive characteristics of the standard cycle except for the single. Now one can ask, “Which players have achieved quasi-cycles?”
The first thing to compile is a list of all players who collected at least four extra base hits in a game, with the long hits distributed according to the definition of a quasi-cycle. That is an enormous task. Thanks to the research of Joseph L. Reichler, the workload was greatly reduced. In the 1993 edition of The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book, Reichler presented his list of players with five or four extra base hits in a game from 1876 through 1992.7 Similarly, in the 1993 edition of the SABR Baseball Research Journal, Joseph Donner presented his “complete” list of players with five or four long hits in a game from 1876 through 1992.8 According to Donner, the feat was accomplished 301 times. Reichler’s list includes 27 players not given on Donner’s list, while Donner’s list includes 50 players not given on Reichler’s list. Examination of the two lists provided a sub-list of the players who collected or may have collected a quasi-cycle.
The next step was to ascertain which players hit a quasi-cycle 1993–2016. That is also a prodigious task. Fortunately, thanks to the Herculean efforts put forth by Retrosheet volunteers to generate box score files (and derived player daily files), extracting the necessary information was greatly facilitated. The extraordinarily helpful “Play Index” tool on the Baseball-Reference website utilizes the Retrosheet database for the seasons back to 1913. In addition, Retrosheet’s Tom Ruane graciously wrote a computer program to extract quasi-cycles achieved back to the 1911 season. (Note that the quasi-cycle information obtained from the Baseball-Reference Play Index and from Ruane’s computer program identified several instances in disagreement with Donner’s and/or Reichler’s findings. The Appendix to this article, available on the SABR website at https://sabr.org/node/47842, provides detail on the discrepancies.)
Finally, each of the quasi-cycles identified as described above was verified by checking the game accounts in the relevant newspapers or the play-by-play descriptions given on the Retrosheet website.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Table 1 presents the pertinent information for each of the 88 quasi-cycles identified. Since Joe DiMaggio collected two quasi-cycles, the total number of players who connected for a quasi-cycle according to my research is 87. Just over a third of the players (31) who achieved a quasi-cycle also collected a single and thereby simultaneously accomplished a traditional cycle — the names of those players are shown in boldface — including DiMaggio twice. Thus, from 1876 through 2016, only 56 major-league players managed to assemble the critical three-tool components of the cycle, but didn’t connect for a simple single to complete the classic cycle. Of these 56 quasi-cycle achievers, only five also accomplished a traditional cycle in some other game during their big league careers — Lou Gehrig (twice), Bob Fothergill, Jimmie Foxx, Johnny Mize, and Willie Stargell.
Now we can answer the question, “Is a quasi-cycle better than a cycle?” Technically, the answer is “Yes!” Both from the standpoint of a player's contribution to his team's offense and from the rarity of the achievement demonstrated by this research, the quasi-cycle deserves to be noted and recorded along with other hitting feats usually included in the record books such as the classic cycle or hitting four homers in a game. This leads to a follow-up question, “Will the quasi-cycle achievers ever be listed as such in baseball’s record books?” At least at this time they are now recorded here in the Baseball Research Journal.
Table 1: Quasi-Cycles (1876 to 2016)
|1||Lon Knight||ATH (AA)||07-30-1883||6-2-1-1|
|2||Dave Orr||MET (AA)||06-12-1885||6-2-1-1|
|3||Henry Larkin||ATH (AA)||06-16-1885||6-2-1-1|
|4||Bob Caruthers||STL (AA)||08-16-1886||5-1-1-2|
|5||Jack Rowe||DET (NL)||09-13-1886||6-2-1-1|
|6||Tip O'Neill||STL (AA)||04-30-1887||7-1-1-2|
|7||Jimmy Ryan||CHC (NL)||07-28-1888||6-1-2-1|
|8||Larry Twitchell||CLE (NL)||08-15-1889||6-1-3-1|
|9||Farmer Weaver||LOU (AA)||08-12-1990||6-1-2-1|
|10||* Tommy McCarthy *||BOS (NL)||10-07-1992||5-1-1-2|
|11||George Decker||CHC (NL)||09-16-1894||5-1-1-2|
|12||Bill Bradley||CLE (AL)||09-24-1903||5-2-1-1|
|13||Frank LaPorte||SLA (AL)||08-07-1911 (2)||5-1-2-1|
|14||Mike Mitchell||CIN (NL)||08-19-1911 (2)||4-2-1-1|
|15||Ed Lennox||PIT (FL)||05-06-1914||5-1-1-2|
|16||George Burns||NY (NL)||09-17-1920||5-2-1-1|
|17||* Ty Cobb *||DET(AL)||05-08-1921||5-2-1-1|
|18||* George Sisler *||STL (AL)||08-13-1921||5-2-1-1|
|19||* Ross Youngs *||NY (NL)||04-29-1922||5-2-1-1|
|20||Russ Wrightstone||PHI (NL)||06-11-1926||6-2-1-1|
|21||* Heinie Manush *||DET (AL)||07-11-1926||5-1-2-1|
|22||Ben Paschal||NY (AL)||06-13-1927||5-1-1-2|
|23||* Travis Jackson *||NY (NL)||06-15-1929||7-1-2-1|
|24||Pinky Whitney||PHI (NL)||07-30-1929||5-1-2-1|
|25||* Joe Cronin *||WAS (AL)||09-02-1929 (1)||5-2-1-1|
|26||* Lou Gehrig *||NY (AL)||07-29-1930||5-1-1-2|
|27||Bob Fothergill||CHW (AL)||07-28-1931||5-2-1-1|
|28||* Jimmie Foxx *||PHA (AL)||07-02-1933 (2)||4-1-1-2|
|29||Sam West||SLA (AL)||08-05-1933||5-1-2-1|
|30||Wally Berger||BOS (NL)||08-11-1935 (1)||5-2-1-1|
|31||Hank Leiber||NY (NL)||08-18-1935||5-2-1-1|
|32||* Joe DiMaggio *||NY (AL)||07-09-1937||5-1-1-2|
|33||* Johnny Mize *||STL (NL)||07-03-1939||4-1-1-2|
|34||Chet Laabs||SLA (AL)||07-16-1941||4-1-1-2|
|35||Phil Weintraub||NY (NL)||04-30-1944 (1)||5-2-1-1|
|36||Grady Hatton||CIN (NL)||08-11-1947||4-2-1-1|
|37||* Joe DiMaggio *||NY (AL)||05-20-1948||6-1-1-2|
|38||George Vico||DET (AL)||08-14-1948||6-2-1-1|
|39||Gil Hodges||BRO (NL)||06-25-1949||6-1-1-2|
|40||* Ralph Kiner *||PIT (NL)||06-25-1950||6-1-1-2|
|41||Hoot Evers||DET (AL)||09-07-1950||6-1-2-1|
|42||* Al Kaline *||DET (AL)||06-30-1956||6-2-1-1|
|43||Daryl Spencer||SF (NL)||05-13-1958||6-1-1-2|
|44||Roger Maris||KCA (AL)||08-03-1958 (1)||5-1-1-2|
|45||* Hank Aaron *||MIL (NL)||05-03-1962||5-1-1-2|
|46||Joe Christopher||NY (NL)||08-18-1964||5-1-2-1|
|47||* Carl Yastrzemski *||BOS (AL)||05-14-1965||5-1-1-2|
|48||Don Baylor||BAL (AL)||04-06-1973||4-2-1-1|
|49||Hal Breedon||MON (NL)||09-02-1973||5-1-2-1|
|50||* Willie Stargell *||PIT (NL)||09-17-1973||4-2-1-1|
|51||Jack Brohamer||CHW (AL)||09-24-1977||5-2-1-1|
|52||* George Brett *||KC (AL)||05-28-1979||7-1-1-2|
|53||Dan Ford||CAL (AL)||08-10-1979||7-2-1-1|
|54||Johnny Grubb||TEX (AL)||08-08-1982 (2)||5-2-1-1|
|55||Lou Whitaker||DET (AL)||06-08-1983||5-2-1-1|
|56||Bob Horner||ATL (NL)||07-13-1985||5-2-1-1|
|57||Kevin Bass||HOU (NL)||06-27-1987||4-2-1-1|
|58||* Tim Raines *||MON (NL)||08-16-1987||5-2-1-1|
|59||Darryl Strawberry||NY (NL)||08-16-1987||5-2-1-1|
|60||Chris Sabo||CIN (NL)||06-18-1988||4-2-1-1|
|61||Chris Speier||SF (NL)||07-09-1988||6-2-1-1|
|62||Kevin Mitchell||CIN (NL)||06-22-1993||5-2-1-1|
|63||Travis Fryman||DET (AL)||07-28-1993||5-2-1-1|
|64||Gary Sheffield||FLA (NL)||04-10-1994||5-1-1-2|
|65||Scott Cooper||BOS (AL)||04-12-1994||6-2-1-1|
|66||Mike Blowers||SEA (AL)||05-24-1995||5-2-1-1|
|67||Rondell White||MON (NL)||06-11-1995||7-2-1-1|
|68||Melvin Nieves||DET (AL)||04-06-1996||5-2-1-1|
|69||Larry Walker||COL (NL)||05-21-1996||5-1-1-2|
|70||Alex Ochoa||NY (NL)||07-03-1996||5-2-1-1|
|71||Rich Becker||MIN (AL)||07-13-1996||6-1-1-2|
|72||Juan Gonzalez||TEX (AL)||08-31-1998||5-2-1-1|
|73||Carl Everett||BOS (AL)||08-29-2000||5-1-1-2|
|74||Chris Richard||STL (NL)||09-03-2000||6-1-1-2|
|75||Roger Cedeño||DET (AL)||07-18-2001 (2)||5-1-1-2|
|76||Greg Colbrunn||ARI (NL)||09-18-2002||6-1-1-2|
|77||Eric Byrnes||OAK (AL)||06-29-2003||5-2-1-1|
|78||Mark Teixeira||TEX (AL)||09-13-2004||5-2-1-1|
|79||Raul Ibanez||SEA (AL)||06-11-2007||5-1-1-2|
|80||Dustin Pedroia||BOS (AL)||07-02-2008||5-2-1-1|
|81||Stephen Drew||ARI (NL)||09-01-2008||5-2-1-1|
|82||Ian Kinsler||TEX (AL)||04-05-2009||6-2-1-1|
|83||Ryan Howard||PHI (NL)||06-18-2010||4-1-1-2|
|84||Sam Fuld||TB (AL)||04-11-2011||6-2-1-1|
|85||Kelly Johnson||ARI (NL)||05-30-2011||6-1-1-2|
|86||Carlos Beltran||STL (NL)||05-11-2012||5-1-1-2|
|87||David Wright||NY (NL)||06-23-2013||5-2-1-1|
NOTES: (1) Players listed in boldface also collected a single and therefore simultaneously also achieved a traditional cycle. (2) A player’s name bracketed with asterisks indicates that he was subsequently elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
According to the list of cycles given on the Retrosheet website, the major league record for most cycles, career, is three — held by four players:
(1) John Reilly [with Cincinnati (AA) on September 12, 1883, and September 19, 1883, and with Cincinnati (NL) on August 6, 1890]
(2) Bob Meusel [with New York (AL) on May 7, 1921, July 3, 1922, and July 26, 1928]
(3) Babe Herman [with Brooklyn (NL) on May 18, 1931, and July 24, 1931, and with Chicago (NL) on September 30, 1933]
(4) Adrian Beltre [with Seattle (AL) on September 01, 2008, and with Texas on August 24, 2012, and August 03, 2015].
Considering both traditional cycles and quasi-cycles, Lou Gehrig accumulated a combined total of three — his two authentic cycles [with New York (AL) on June 25, 1934 and August 01, 1937] and his one quasi-cycle [with New York (AL) on July 29, 1930].
HERM KRABBENHOFT joined SABR 36 years ago. His many and varied accomplishments in baseball research include the following: ultimate grand slam home runs, accurate triple play database [with Jim Smith and Steve Boren], Ted Williams Consecutive-Games-On-Base-Safely record, Cobb (hitter) vs. Ruth (pitcher), accurate RBI totals for Ruth, Gehrig, and Greenberg, accurate records for twentieth century leadoff batters, Zimmerman’s triple crown, Hamilton’s MLB runs-scored record [with Keith Carlson, Dave Newman, and Dixie Tourangeau], comprehensive compilation of Detroit Tigers uniform numbers.
Herm Krabbenhoft gratefully dedicates this article to his good friend Ron Kabacinski. Together they have enjoyed many games at Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park — including the one on July 18, 2001, when Roger Cedeño of the Tigers hit a quasi-cycle. Thanks, Ron! — for all the great times playing catch down on the farm and the wonderful memories of our fantastic times at the ballpark — including especially the 1968 and 1984 World Series and the final game at Tiger Stadium. All the best to you and Barbara!
Special thanks are gratefully extended to Tom Ruane for writing a computer program to extract the quasi-cycles from the Retrosheet database for the 1911–2016 seasons. Similarly, I am very grateful to the following people for providing details for some of the quasi-cycles: Keith Carlson (for the quasi-cycles hit by Caruthers, Cobb, and Laabs); Dixie Tourangeau (for McCarthy’s quasi-cycle); Dave Smith (for the quasi-cycles hit by Wrightstone, Manush, Jackson, and Whitney); and Dennis Thiessen and Jay Buck (for Tip O’Neill’s quasi-cycle). I should also like to thank Cassidy Lent, Ev Cope, Doug Kern, J.G. Preston, Andy McCue, Philippe Cousineau, Doug Goodman, Gary Gillette, John Swol, Sean Holtz, Andrew Sharp, Brian Rash, Steve Boren, Dan DiNardo, Steve Gietschier, Chuck McGill, Don Mankowski, Bob Wilson, Barry Mednick, and Trent McCotter for their inputs to my requests (posted on SABR-L and SABR_Records) for information/guidance on pre-1981 printed (hard-copy) lists of players who hit for the cycle. Similarly, I am very grateful to Doug Todgham, Cliff Blau, Gary Stone, Albert Hallenberg, Misty Mayberry, Gordon Turner, Jerry Nechal, and Amy Welch for providing newspaper game accounts for the hit sequences and/or other important information for some of the players who hit cycles and/or quasi-cycles. And it is a pleasure to again acknowledge the Retrosheet volunteers who contributed to the phenomenal Retrosheet database of play-by-play information as well as the Baseball-Reference website’s extraordinarily useful Play Index tool, which was key to generating the information presented in Table 1. Finally, I should like to thank Dennis Thiessen and Jeff Robbins for their very helpful suggestions.
CYCLES AND THE RECORD BOOKS
The use of the term “cycle” to mean “a single, a double, a triple, and a home run hit by a player in the same game” goes back to at least 1921.9,10The first comprehensive list of players who hit for the cycle (of which I’m aware) is the one published in the 1937 edition of The Little Red Book of Baseball — in a table with the heading “Hitting For A Cycle” and a sub-heading “Making a single, a double, a triple, a homer in a game. A unique and unusual achievement. 1901 to 1936.”11 The list included 32 cycles from the National League and 13 from the American League. The cycles list was updated in the 1938 and 1939 editions, but then discontinued (permanently) with the 1940 edition.
Compared to the list of cycles presented on Retrosheet, The Little Red Book of Baseball has several errors — mostly of omission. For instance, the first AL cycle listed is the one achieved by Bobby Veach on September 17, 1920, while Retrosheet lists ten cycles in the Junior Circuit before Veach’s. The first comprehensive list of cycles that included the nineteenth century (that I’m aware of) was the one in the second (1964) edition of the Ronald Encyclopedia of Baseball (authored by Joseph Reichler).12 We now know Reichler’s list was fraught with errors, both of omission and commission.
Nearly twenty years later, in 1981, Joseph P. Donner reported his (apparently independently-generated) list of cycles in the Baseball Research Journal.13 Also in 1981, Macmillan published The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book (authored by Joseph L. Reichler) which presented his comprehensive list of cycles.14 When compared to the Retrosheet list of cycles, Donner’s list has three discrepancies, Reichler’s 58. Unlike other notable batting feats (such as three-homer games, five-hit games, grand slam homers, etc.), cycles were not always included in the various annual baseball guides and books published by The Sporting News.15
- 1. “History of the Game, Doubleday to Present Day — Players who have hit for the cycle,” MLB.com, accessed June 10, 2017.
- 2. Joseph L. Reichler (Revised by Ken Samelson), The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book, Macmillan, New York (1993) 126.
- 3. Steve Gietschier, Editor, The 2008 Complete Baseball Record Book, Sporting News, Chesterfield, MO (2008) 130.
- 4. “Cycles,” Retrosheet.org, accessed July 3, 2017.
- 5. The modifier “quasi” is defined by Merriam-Webster as follows: “having some resemblance usually by possession of certain attributes.” Similarly, the combining form “quasi-“ is defined as follows: “in some way or sense, but not in a true, direct, or complete way; resembling in some degree.” Also Merriam-Webster defines “cycle” as follows: “the series of a single, double, triple, and home run hit in any order by one player during one baseball game.” Thus, a “quasi-cycle” is a cycle in some way or sense (i.e., it has four hits like a cycle, including a double, triple, and home run), but is not a true or complete cycle since it lacks the single, the single having been replaced by an additional long hit. Some common “quasi-“ words are quasi-governmental, quasi-judicial, quasi-legislative, quasi-public.
- 6. One might also ask, “What about a player who hits one homer and three doubles — should that combination also be a quasi-cycle?” Or the player who blasts out two doubles and two homers or three homers and one double or even four homers? The answer for these “tripleless” combinations of four long hits is, “No — because the definition of the quasi-cycle mandates that at least one of each of the three types of extra base hits (double, triple and home run) must be included in the combination of four long hits.”
- 7. Joseph L. Reichler (Revised by Ken Samelson), The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book, Macmillan, New York (1993) 89.
- 8. Joseph Donner, “Four or More Long Hits in a Game — The Complete List,” The Baseball Research Journal, Society for American Baseball Research, Cleveland (1993) 54.
- 9. Chuck McGill, personal communication (email) to Herm Krabbenhoft, June 01, 2017 — from the Tennessean [Nashville, Tennessee, August 21, 1921 (p12)] was the following news item: “George Sisler on August 13 hit the cycle by getting on a single, double, triple, and home run, and by getting an extra double in the same game.”
- 10. According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the first use of the term “cycle” to mean hitting a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game was in a 1933 Washington Post article: Paul Dickson, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, W.W. Norton & Company, New York (2009) 237.
- 11. Charlie White, The Little Red Book of Baseball, Cortland, NY (1937), 26.
- 12. Joseph Reichler, The Ronald Encyclopedia of Baseball, Ronald Press Co., New York (1964), 80.
- 13. Joseph G. Donner, “Hitting for the Cycle,” Baseball Research Journal, Society for American Baseball Research (1981) 75.
- 14. Joseph L. Reichler, The Great All-Time Baseball Record Book, Macmillan, New York (1981) 110.
- 15. For example, beginning with the 1951 edition of The (Sporting News) Official Baseball Guide, in the section titled “Batting Feats of 1950,” lists of players with 5-hit games, 3-homer games, grand slam homers, and cycles were presented. In the 1952–1954 editions, only 5-hit games and grand slam homers were provided. Then, starting in 1955 (and continuing until the very last edition in 2006) 5-hit games, 3-homer games, and grand slams were presented; the lists of pinch homers were discontinued (permanently) with the 1974 edition. A list of cycles was not presented in any edition other than the 1951 edition. With regard to cumulative lists of batting feats, beginning with the 1951 edition of One for the Book, a list of players who achieved “Six or More Hits in One Game” (p30) was presented. Beginning with the 1952 edition, lists of players who hit (a) hit “Four Home Runs in One Game” (page 45) or (b) “Three Home Runs in One Game” (page 45) were presented. These batting feats were published in each subsequent annual edition through the final edition [then titled The (Sporting News) Complete Record Book] published in 2008. Curiously, a comprehensive list of cycles was not included until the 1998 edition (page 177).