What is the cycle in baseball ? One of the most exciting accomplishments in major league baseball is exciting because of its rarity. When a batter hits for the cycle, he gets a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game. From 1876 through the end of the 2017 regular season, there have been only 319 instances of a batter accomplishing this feat.1 Given that there have been 214,651 games played, hitting for the cycle is indeed a rare event, as it has occurred in fewer than 1% of all games (0.149%, to be more precise).2 To date, no game has seen more than one batter hit for the cycle.
The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we will provide evidence of when the phrase hitting for the cycle was popularized by the media to describe the feat, and how the phrase evolved to what we use today. Throughout the paper, we will use bold font to indicate the actual cycle descriptors found in the newspapers of the day. Not until the 70th occurrence of a cycle did someone in the media try to characterize the four different hits with a common label, and more than 20 additional occurrences took place before the characterization was popularized as “hitting for the cycle” and used throughout the country. Second, we will provide descriptive statistics on the event itself and how attaining the cycle has changed over time. In recent seasons, the order in which a batter is most likely to attain a cycle has changed, especially in regards to the final hit. For example, is the last hit of a cycle most likely a triple? Has it always been that way?
The First Cycle
Charles “Curry” Foley became the first batter to hit for the cycle on May 25, 1882, hitting a bases-loaded home run in the first inning, a triple in the second, a double in the fifth, and a single in the seventh. Foley had 10 total bases in six at-bats, and his cycle occurred in reverse natural order. A natural cycle indicates that the hits are in order of total bases with single first, then double, triple, and home run. A reverse natural cycle indicates the opposite order. Buffalo blasted the Cleveland Blues, 20-1, of which four runs were scored by Foley.3 He was clearly the hero for the Buffalo Bisons on this day, however the daily newspapers described Foley’s accomplishment without much fanfare.
Some sources (including Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.com) list that George Hall is actually the first person to hit for the cycle, in a game on June 14, 1876. Michael Huber, an author of this paper, discovered an entry on Baseball-Reference.com and then researched the game in several newspaper accounts. Hall, playing for the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, did get five hits in the contest against the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and all newspapers sources agree that he had a single, a home run, and at least two triples. However, the Philadelphia Times (the hometown paper) reported that Hall also had a double, thus meeting the definition of a cycle, while the New York Clipper and the Cincinnati Enquirer each reported three triples and no double (see Note 1). In Huber’s summary of the game, he cites SABR author Matt Albertson, who writes that John Thorn, the official Historian of Major League Baseball, does not believe that Hall hit for the cycle. Therefore, as this cycle is in dispute, we do not include it in our study. Foley’s performance is clear: four different type hits in the same game.
Since Foley’s cycle in 1882, there have been 318 additional cycles through 2017. A frequency chart, by season, of the number of times a batter has hit for the cycle is shown in Figure 1. There have been two seasons—1933 and 2009—where eight cycles occurred, each by a different batter. There have been many seasons where no batter hit for the cycle.
How many cycles have been hit in MLB history?
What’s more impressive about De La Cruz’s record is that he was the third-fastest to a cycle in MLB history. Only Gary Ward, who did so in his 14th game and Cliff Heathcote, who got it in his sixth game completed the accomplishment faster.
Hitting a cycle is one of the rarest feats for a batter. Following Elly De La Cruz’s cycle against the Atlanta Braves, the MLB has seen 343 cycles in its history.
The first player to record a cycle in the league was Curry Foley, way back in 1882.
These are the coolest cycles ever
All cycles are cool. Hitting for the cycle isn’t just one of baseball’s rare feats, it’s one of the most fun to watch as it happens.
The cycle produces a supremely aesthetic box score. There’s something beautiful about hitting one of everything: a single, a double, a triple, a home run.
But some cycles stand out even among other cycles. Here are 11 of the coolest cycles ever.
De La Cruz was just called up June 6 — and less than three weeks later, he put on a show in Cincinnati against the Braves. De La Cruz opened his night with a 116.6 mph double in the second inning, then hit a two-run homer in the third. In the fifth, he snuck a broken-bat single up the middle to drive in another run. The 21-year-old completed the cycle with a triple into the gap in right-center field in the sixth inning. De La Cruz became the fifth-youngest player to hit for the cycle, and he did it in just his 15th game — the third-fastest mark among players to debut since 1900. Oh, yeah — and De La Cruz’s cycle also helped power the Reds to their 12th straight win.
Over their first 30 years of existence, the Marlins had played 4,699 games in franchise history without a single player hitting for the cycle. Then Arraez pulled off the feat in only his 12th game with the club after the 2022 AL batting champ was acquired in an offseason trade for Pablo López. Just as remarkably, Arraez’s homer in this game was the only one he hit in his first 64 games with Miami, meaning he picked the perfect time to get all four types of hits.
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