Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hit for the Cycle: Test Your Baseball Knowledge

There are three Major League Baseball teams that have never had a player to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, and home run in one game). Name them. (Here's some help: the Texas Rangers' Gary Matthews, Jr. hit for the "cycle-plus"--cycle + a walk--last night; so, Texas could not be part of your answer).

Bonus question: What MLB team has had players who hit for the cycle, but also holds the record for most number of years lapsed between players who hit for the cycle?

I'll post the answers later.

09/15/2006, 8:30 a.m. Answer: The Florida Marlins, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the San Diego Padres are the three teams that have never had a player to hit for the cycle.

The Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves hold the record for most years lapsed between players hitting for the cycle: 77. Atlanta's Albert Hall hit for the cycle in 1987, breaking a drought that stretched back to Boston rookie Bill Collins accomplishing the feat in 1910. The Milwaukee Braves never had a player hit for the cycle.

Hitting for the cycle is one of the most difficult feats in sports because it defies skill, fortune, and the law of averages (especially in baseball, where the best hitters hit 1 out of every 3 at bats). It requires that a hitter get at least 4 hits, when players do not typically see more than 4 at bats in a game. It is hard enough to hit a baseball, thrown at high velocity and with wicked curves, but to hit for the cycle is astronomically difficult by comparison. Only 4 players in this year's season (each team plays 162 games) have hit for the cycle, which seems a high number to me. Only 272 players have pulled the feat off since the 19th Century. The first to do it was an Ireland native, Curry Foley, playing for the Buffalo Bisons in 1882.

I believe that the most difficult part of the the cycle is getting the triple, itself a relatively rare type of hit in baseball, because it requires a combination of hitting the ball in exactly the right outfield gap "where the fielders aren't" with astonishing foot speed around the bases to end up at 3rd. Home runs are difficult enough, but triples require almost pinpoint placement, power, and speed. I consider a triple one of the most exciting plays in baseball, because it requires so much more calculation on the batter's part than any other type of hit. Singles and doubles seem textbook by comparison. Triples also place great demands on the fielding and relay skills of the defense. Whenever I see a triple-in-the-making, I'm always waiting to exhale.

Only 14 players have hit for the cycle in the "natural order," starting with a single and finishing with a homerun.

Teams with most players hitting for the cycle:
  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (23)
  2. (tie) New York/San Francisco Giants (20); St. Louis Cardinals (20)


  1. I'll admit I Googled this b/c I couldn't wait for the answers. A couple make sense [hey, Google it yourself] but I didn't realize the Padres were younger than the Mets. Fascinating trivia. And there's always a surprise. The teams don't necessarily include who you'd think.

    How's that for a semi-sensical comment without giving away the answer?? :)