Mike HeganAugust 18, 2009
I went to a White Sox game three weeks ago and saw Melky Cabrera hit for the cycle. The feat, nearly as rare as a no-hitter—287 cycles and 263 no-hitters in major league history—has been accomplished twice since then, by Felix Pie and Troy Tulowitzki, bringing the number of cycles for the year to seven, more than in any season since 1933, in which a record eight players hit for the cycle. Here’s that list of eight:
05/05/1933 Pepper Martin SLN NL PHI PHI Baker Bowl
05/26/1933 Chuck Klein PHI NL SLN SLN Sportsman’s Park III
06/24/1933 Arky Vaughan PIT NL BRO BRO Ebbets Field
08/02/1933 Mickey Cochrane PHA AL NYA NYA Yankee Stadium
08/06/1933 Pinky Higgins PHA AL WS1 WS1 Griffith Stadium
08/14/1933 Jimmie Foxx PHA AL CLE CLE League Park II
08/17/1933 Earl Averill CLE AL PHA CLE League Park II
09/30/1933 Babe Herman CHN NL SLN SLN Sportsman’s Park III
Quite a list! Besides five Hall of Famers, you’ve got three other renowned baseball figures (Pepper Martin for epitomizing the Gas House Gang; Babe Herman for epitomizing the lovable, hapless “Dem Bums” era of the Brooklyn Dodgers; and Pinky Higgins for reputedly being, while manager of the Red Sox, a racist) who all had very good playing careers.
The jury is still out on whether the cycle-hitting class of 2009 can match 1933’s collection of stars and superstars. See any future Hall of Famers in the list below? (I count one can’t-miss, as long as he stays healthy.)
04/13/2009 Orlando Hudson LAN NL SFN LAN Dodger Stadium
04/15/2009 Ian Kinsler TEX AL BAL TEX Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
04/17/2009 Jason Kubel MIN AL ANA MIN Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
05/22/2009 Michael Cuddyer MIN AL MIL MIN Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
08/02/2009 Melky Cabrera NYA AL CHA CHA U.S. Cellular Field
08/10/2009 Troy Tulowitzki COL NL CHN COL Coors Field
08/14/2009 Felix Pie BAL AL ANA BAL Oriole Park at Camden Yards
As for the Cardboard Gods era, the one year when the cycles came the most frequently was 1976.
04/21/1976 Tim Foli MON NL CHN CHN Wrigley Field
06/04/1976 Larry Hisle MIN AL BAL BAL Memorial Stadium
06/25/1976 Mike Phillips NYN NL CHN CHN Wrigley Field
07/24/1976 Lyman Bostock MIN AL CHA CHA Comiskey Park I
08/09/1976 Cesar Cedeno HOU NL SLN SLN Busch Stadium II
09/03/1976 Mike Hegan MIL AL DET DET Tiger Stadium
No Hall of Famers here. The closest to Cooperstown would be Cesar Cedeno, an unsurprising member of the list. (In fact, the slugging speedster hit for the cycle twice in his career.) On the other hand, infielders Tim Foli and Mike Phillips, who had a career 36 home runs between them, seem very unlikely cycle-hitters. Mike Hegan is perhaps an even more inexplicable member of this club, as the triple he legged out that day on his 33-year-old wheels was the last of the 18 triples he managed in his career. Amazingly enough, he did all his damage against arguably the best pitcher in the league that year, Mark Fidrych. Because the Bird started the game, Hegan had a much greater audience than a late-season matchup between the Tigers and Brewers would have otherwise drawn.
I wonder if there was much, if any, of a fuss made over Hegan when he had completed his feat. If my experience of being at a game where an opposing player hits for the cycle is any guide, I doubt it. When Cabrera slid into third for a triple, few at the game even knew this was all he had needed to add his name to the list of cycle-hitters. I saw a guy in a Yankees cap a few rows ahead of me say the word “cycle” to his buddy, but I didn’t know for sure what was happening until they put it up on the big screen. The game was already all but over for the White Sox, who were getting blown out, so there was no reason to hold back on acknowledging a little bit of history, but I would characterize the applause for Cabrera as somewhere between “polite” and “a smattering of.” Certainly there had been a much bigger roar when “fries” edged “Big Mac” and “Egg McMuffin” in the between-innings McDonalds race on the big screen.
Anyway, here’s some belated applause for Mike Hegan, whose career had some high points (a World Series appearance at age 21; the distinction of being the one and only All-Star for the one and only edition of the Seattle Pilots), but who never matched the perennial all-star status of his father, Jim, considered by some to have been the greatest fielding catcher in baseball history.