On July 7, 1923, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pie Traynor etched his name into the team record books with an extraordinary hitting feat against the Philadelphia Phillies. The two teams met at the Baker Bowl on that Saturday afternoon. The Pirates were the much better team at the time, holding a 43-26 record. The Phillies were struggling along in last place with a 21-50 record. This game was a mismatch on paper and it played out that way on the field as well.
The Pittsburgh lineup that day had Hall of Famers Rabbit Maranville batting lead-off and Max Carey batting second, with fellow Cooperstown inductee Pie Traynor in the fifth spot. Pitcher Lee Meadows, who was off to a 6-6 start, was on the mound for the Bucs. The Phillies lineup didn’t have any future Hall of Famers. They had slugger Cy Williams in the middle of their lineup, which was like having a Hall of Famer at the time. He was in the middle of the second 30+ home run season in NL history, except he finished with 41 homers. It was his third of four home run crowns. The Phillies also had Cotton Tierney in the cleanup spot, a name that should be familiar to Pirates fans for his four seasons in Pittsburgh, including the 1922 season covered here.
Finally, the pitcher was another former Pirate, Whitey Glazner, who just happened to be seven weeks removed from the trade that brought his mound opponent to Pittsburgh. Both pitchers likely had something to prove on this date.
These teams wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in this contest. The Pirates started with a hit-by-pitch to Max Carey. He moved to third base on a double by Carson Bigbee, then both of them scored on a single to center field by Reb Russell. Pie Traynor walked in his first plate appearance, then Charlie Grimm singled home Russell. Johnny Rawlings followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Traynor. The Pirates were up 4-0 before the Phillies had a chance to bat.
In the bottom of the first, lead-off hitter Johnny Mokan (another former Pirate) singled. He would score on a single by Cy Williams, with help from an error. Modern boxscores credit Pie Traynor with the error that caused the run to score, but game recaps from the day say that the error was on right fielder Reb Russell, who made a wild throw to third base trying to cut down Mokan. Either way, it made it 4-1 Pirates. Two straight ground outs brought Williams home to score, with the first one moving him to third base, before Cotton Tierney picked up the RBI.
After a long first inning, both teams went down in order in the second. In the third, the Pirates got a walk to Carson Bigbee, a single by Grimm and Traynor reached on an error, but a double play and a strikeout ended the inning. This is another one where the modern play-by-play differs from the game recap from the day. The last out of the top of the third is called an out to the catcher (Baseball-Reference has a fly ball to the catcher). I went with the strikeout recorded in the game recaps. In the bottom of the third, the Phillies tested three different infielders on ground balls and they all passed the test.
The Pirates went down in order in the fourth, and then the Phillies had runners on a single and an error, but Lee Meadows struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
Whitey Glazner settled down after a rough first against his former teammates, but they got back to hitting him in the fifth. Singles by Carey and Russell put two men on for Pie Traynor, who crushed a home run deep into the left field bleachers to make it 7-2. Charlie Grimm then walked, stole second, and scored on a Walter Schmidt single. Schmidt scored one batter later on a double by Meadows. With the score 9-2, the Phillies went down in the fifth with just a single by Williams and nothing else.
Reliever Broadway Jones came on for the sixth inning and walked by Carey and Russell. Traynor singled home Carey, then Russell scored on a sacrifice fly ball Charlie Grimm, making it 11-2. The Phillies went down in order in the sixth and there was nothing doing for the Pirates in the seventh.
After the seventh inning stretch, the Phillies mounted a comeback attempt. A single and an error by Maranville put runners on the corners with one out. Johnny Mokan brought in a run with a single, then Curt Walker brought in two runs with a two-out single. It was now 11-5 in favor of the Pirates.
In the eighth, Pittsburgh got things going with a walk to Bigbee and a single by Russell. Traynor then came up and hit one to the fence in center field, which gave him a triple and made it 13-5. The next two players made outs to end the inning, so if Traynor wanted to make history, he needed four men to get on base ahead of him in the ninth.
After a lead-off walk to Walter Schmidt in the ninth, the Phillies went to reliever Bill Hubbell. He struck out Meadows, then walked the next two batters to load the bases. Carson Bigbee singled to make it 14-5, then a Reb Russell ground out almost prevented Traynor from coming up again. The Phillies got the second out of the inning at second base, but Russell made it safely to first. That set up history, and Traynor came through, doubling to deep left field for the cycle.
Back in 1923, the newspapers didn’t have the term cycle, so every time a player hit one, it would lead to a long subheading that said “(Player’s name) collects home run, triple, double and single”. You can bet that the term cycle caught on quickly once it came about.
The Pirates closed out their scoring with a two-run double by Charlie Grimm, making it 18-5. Meadows worked around a lead-off single in the ninth to finish out the game.
Meadows took the complete game win and due to errors, none of the runs were earned. Glazner was charged with nine earned runs in five innings against his former teammates. Traynor reached base in all six plate appearances, though he didn’t get his first hit until the fifth inning. Charlie Grimm and Reb Russell each had three hits and four RBIs. Russell scored five runs in the game. Maranville in the lead-off spot went 0-for-5, as did Johnny Rawlings batting seventh, yet the Pirates were still able to put up 18 runs.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play courtesy of Retrosheet.org