It might be the most underrated, underappreciated and arguably most difficult feat in all of baseball.
Sure, the perfect game and no-hitters get all the attention. There have been 23 instances of an individual finishing off a perfecto throughout Major League Baseball history, including Don Larsen’s gem for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Everyone marvels over the elusive four-homer game, with J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox pulling off the last one on Sept. 4, 2017. There have been 16 of these long-ball fests since the start of the modern era in 1901.
But then there’s the natural cycle. It’s the often forgotten – or even unknown – feat of hitting for the cycle in order (a single, then double, then triple and finally the home run). According to MLB, there have been only 14 of these naturals in the modern era – the last by Gary Matthews Jr. of the Texas Rangers in 2006.
So let’s continue our celebration of the cycle and widen our breakdown to the record-holding hitters in several of the different ways the feat can be accomplished:
Most Career Cycles
Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers tormented the Cincinnati Reds throughout early in his career. The two-time All-Star hit .283 with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs – his most homers and RBIs versus any opponent – through his first 93 meetings.
But he’s also hit all three of his MLB record-tying three cycles against the Reds: one at Cincinnati on Aug. 28, 2018, another almost just one month later at home on Sept. 17, 2018 and a third at Great American Ballpark on May 11, 2022.
With the triple being the most difficult of the single, double, triple and home run combination needed to complete the cycle, it makes sense that speedy players like Yelich and Trea Turner would be on the list. The Los Angeles Dodgers infielder achieved all three of his cycles while with the Washington Nationals.
Considered one of the best third basemen of all time, this is another reason why many believe Adrián Beltré will get voted in when he’s slated to appear on his first Hall of Fame ballot in 2024.
Babe Herman is not to be confused with George Herman Ruth Jr., who one might say had a pretty good career under the name Babe Ruth. Herman wasn’t bad himself, ending up with a career .324 batting average over a 13-year run with the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers – two stints), Reds (two stints), Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers between 1926-45.
Herman’s .393 average, 241 hits and 416 total bases in 1930 remain Dodgers franchise records. The right fielder also finished with 35 home runs and 130 RBIs that season.
Most Cycles in Season
We referenced Yelich’s two cycles against the poor Reds in 2018. Well, believe it or not, he’s not the only player to have multiple cycles in one season.
The previously mentioned Herman did it in 1931 – a year after his magical 1930 campaign, though Yelich is the only player to do it twice in one season against the same team.
Aaron Hill’s cycles for the Arizona Diamondbacks came just 11 days apart in 2012, but they weren’t the fewest days between cycles in MLB history.
John Reilly of the Cincinnati Red Stockings had one on Sept. 12, 1883 against the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and again on Sept. 19 against the Philadelphia Athletics. And Tip O’Neill of the St. Louis Browns hit for the cycle on April 30, 1887 versus the Cleveland Blues and again on May 7 against the Louisville Colonels.
The Postseason Cycle
Across the long, storied history of the game, there has only been one cycle during the postseason. And it occurred not all that long ago.
In Game 3 of the 2018 American League Division Series, Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox turned the trick against the rival Yankees. The veteran utility man went 4 for 6 with five RBIs and 10 total bases in the 16-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
We won’t hold it against Holt that he sealed the historic performance with a home run in the ninth off a position player (Austin Romine). It all looks the same in the box score.
Walk-offs that Completed Cycles
Since 1961, only five players have achieved the impressive individual feat by slugging a walk-off homer.
Nolan Arenado was with the Colorado Rockies when he had the most recent one against the San Francisco Giants on June 18, 2017. Former teammate Carlos Gonzalez also did it at the ballpark known as Coors Field against the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2010.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that since the franchise came into existence in 1994, the Rockies have recorded more cycles at home than any other team with nine. The Texas Rangers rank second with six and the Washington Nationals third with five.
George Brett had a walk-off dinger and hit for the cycle against the Baltimore Orioles on May 28, 1979, but it was his second homer of the game and he had already reached the cycle earlier.
Most Cycles by a Team
The Pittsburgh Pirates have hit the most cycles of any franchise throughout MLB history with 24. John Jaso was the last to do it on Sept. 28, 2016 against the Cubs, who would recover and be just fine the rest of the way.
The San Francisco Giants are next with 23 cycles (Pablo Sandoval had the last one in 2011 at Colorado) and the Boston Red Sox third with 22. Star outfielder Mookie Betts had the last regular-season cycle for the Red Sox against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018, though Holt’s playoff cycle was the last one overall.
The St. Louis Cardinals have 19 cycles all time, while the Oakland A’s have 17 to round out the top five.
Fewest Cycles by a Team
While the Rockies have hit nine cycles at home since the team started in the National League in 1994, the Florida/Miami Marlins finally had their first when Luis Arraez did it on April 11, 2023 at Philadelphia.
The Tampa Bay Rays have only had two cycles since joining the league in 1998. Evan Longoria’s fabulous day versus the Houston Astros on Aug. 1, 2017 marked the second cycle after Melvin Upton Jr. had the first cycle against the Yankees on Oct. 2, 2009.
The Toronto Blue Jays (Biggio, Jeff Frye in 2001 and Kelly Gruber in 1989) and San Diego Padres (Jake Cronenworth in 2021, Wil Myers in 2017 and Matt Kemp in 2015) have accomplished the feat three times, while the Seattle Mariners have had four (Beltré in 2008, John Olerud in 2001, Alex Rodriguez in 1997 and Jay Buhner in 1993).
There have only been 26 cycles recorded by rookies in major league history. The most recent being Cavan Biggio’s performance for the Jays against the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 17, 2019 at Camden Yards.
Here is that complete list:
Cycles by Rookies – All Time (Regular Season Only)
|6/23/2023||Elly De La Cruz||Cincinnati Reds||vs. Atlanta Braves|
|9/17/2019||Cavan Biggio||Toronto Blue Jays||at Baltimore Orioles|
|7/15/2017||Cody Bellinger||Los Angeles Dodgers||at Miami Marlins|
|7/19/2013||Brandon Barnes||Houston Astros||vs. Seattle Mariners|
|5/13/2007||Fred Lewis||San Francisco Giants||at Colorado Rockies|
|7/28/2006||Luke Scott||Houston Astros||vs. Arizona Diamondbacks|
|7/29/2004||Eric Valent||New York Mets||at Montreal Expos|
|8/14/2003||Travis Hafner||Cleveland||at Minnesota Twins|
|7/6/1999||Chris Singleton||Chicago White Sox||vs. Kansas City Royals|
|7/3/1996||Alex Ochoa||New York Mets||at Philadelphia Phillies|
|9/15/1991||Ray Lankford||St. Louis Cardinals||vs. New York Mets|
|7/23/1985||Oddibe McDowell||Texas Rangers||vs. Cleveland|
|9/18/1980||Gary Ward||Minnesota Twins||at Milwaukee Brewers|
|4/16/1972||Dave Kingman||San Francisco Giants||at Houston Astros|
|8/11/1966||Randy Hundley||Chicago Cubs||vs. Houston Astros|
|9/14/1947||Vic Wertz||Detroit Tigers||at Washington Senators|
|8/4/1945||Bill Salkeld||Pittsburgh Pirates||vs. St. Louis Cardinals|
|7/3/1943||Leon Culberson||Boston Red Sox||at Cleveland|
|7/19/1940||Buddy Rosar||New York Yankees||vs. Cleveland|
|8/19/1934||Moose Solters||Boston Red Sox||vs. Detroit Tigers|
|8/6/1933||Pinky Higgins||Philadelphia Athletics||at Washington Senators|
|7/21/1925||Roy Carlyle||Boston Red Sox||at Chicago White Sox|
|6/13/1918||Cliff Heathcote||St. Louis Cardinals||at Philadelphia Phillies|
|10/6/1910||Bill Collins||Boston Doves||vs. Philadelphia Phillies|
|6/13/1894||Bill Hassamaer||Washington Senators||vs. St. Louis Browns|
|7/5/1890||Bill Van Dyke||Toledo Maumees||vs. Syracuse Stars|
|9/23/1886||Chippy McGarr||Philadelphia Athletics||vs. St. Louis Browns|