Joe Medwick

June 29, 1935: Joe Medwick caps cycle with a home run off the foul pole

With a single, double, triple, and home run on June 29, 1935, Joe Medwick became the first player to reach 100 hits and the only one to hit for the cycle that season.

Signed off the New Jersey sandlots, the muscular and quick-tempered Medwick quickly developed a reputation as one of the best bad-ball hitters in the league. The Dodgers’ Van Mungo said, “I’d rather pitch to any other hitter in the league,” while his teammate, Dutch Leonard, suggested, “Forbid Medwick to carry a bat to the plate – make him hit it with his fists. Then he’d only get singles.”[1]

After appearing in 26 games in 1932, Medwick was inserted into the starting lineup and hit .306 with 18 home runs and 98 RBIs in 1933. During the Gashouse Gang’s world championship season in 1934, Medwick batted .319 with 18 homers and 106 RBIs.

“I just smell the lettuce,” Medwick said, using a slang term for money. “I have two good friends in this world: buckerinoes and base hits. If I get base hits, I will get buckerinoes. I smell World Series lettuce and I’ll get my two or three a day.”[2]

Facing the Reds at Crosley Field on June 29, 1935, Medwick got more than the two or three hits he’d bargained for. Batting cleanup, he opened the day’s scoring with an RBI double to left field that scored Ernie Orsatti. Catcher Bill DeLancey launched a solo home run over the right-field wall to make it 2-0 before Medwick struck again in the third. This time Medwick tripled into center field, scoring Burgess Whitehead. Ripper Collins followed with a single up the middle to score Medwick and give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

Medwick led off the fifth inning with a single and scored when DeLancey tripled off the right-field wall.

Paul Dean allowed two runs in the bottom of the fifth, including a solo home run by Ival Goodman, to trim the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3. After Cincinnati’s Billy Myers led off the seventh with a triple, manager Frankie Frisch replaced Dean with Bill Walker. Walker allowed five hits in the inning, including a two-run double by Alex Kampouris, as “base hits then cracked to all parts of the field like exploding firecrackers,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.[3] With the rally, the Reds grabbed an 8-5 lead.

The Reds continued to hold that three-run lead into the ninth. After Al Hollingsworth retired Orsatti and Whitehead, Medwick came to the plate seeking to keep the Cardinals’ chances alive, needing a home run for the cycle. With a blast that bounced off the left-field foul pole and back onto the field, he accomplished both.

Collins followed with a single and DeLancey drew a walk to bring the winning run to the plate, but Terry Moore hit a ground ball to third base and the Reds’ Lew Riggs stepped on the bag to force out Collins and end the game.

Medwick’s performance raised his average to .370, trailing only the Pirates’ Arky Vaughan, who was batting .392 through 199 at-bats. Medwick finished the season batting .353 with 23 homers and 126 RBIs and placed fifth in that year’s MVP voting behind Gabby Hartnett, Dizzy Dean, Vaughan, and Billy Herman.

Throughout the 1930s, Medwick was a mainstay in the Cardinals’ lineup, leading the league in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, batting average, and total bases en route to the National League MVP in 1937. In 1940, to avoid his rising salary demands, the Cardinals traded Medwick and Curt Davis to the Dodgers for Carl Doyle, Bert Haas, Ernie Koy, Sam Nahem, and $125,000.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals for the final two years of his career in 1947 and 1948 before retiring. His 17-year major league career included a .324 batting average and 10 all-star game appearances. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968.

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[1] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, McFarland Publishing, Kindle file, Page 42.

[2] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, McFarland Publishing, Kindle file, Page 41.

[3] J. Roy Stockton, “Medwick Hits Home Run, Triple, Double, and Single,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 30, 1935.

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