Johnny Mize

July 13, 1940: Johnny Mize hits walk-off triple to complete the cycle

The Cardinals needed every one of Johnny Mize’s four hits to beat the New York Giants 7-6 in the first game of a July 13, 1940, doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park III.

Mize’s feat marked the sixth time in franchise history that a Cardinal hit for the cycle, joining Cliff Heathcote, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, Pepper Martin, and Joe Medwick, and the first since Medwick did it five years earlier in 1935.

The game pitted two of the game’s best pitchers of the previous decade in New York’s Carl Hubbell and St. Louis’s Lon Warneke. Hubbell was a two-time National League MVP who had just been selected to his seventh career all-star game, which took place four days earlier at Sportsman’s Park. Now in his 13th season, the 37-year-old Hubbell entered the game with a 5-4 record and a 3.38 ERA.

The Cardinals countered with Warneke, a 31-year-old right-hander who had led the National League with 22 wins and a 2.37 ERA with the Cubs in 1932. Warneke, who had four all-star game selections to his credit, was coming off a tough 10-inning performance in which he took the loss despite allowing just two earned runs. He entered the game with a 5-7 record despite a 2.83 ERA.

Neither pitcher enjoyed an easy afternoon on the mound. The Giants got on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning with an RBI single by Billy Jurges, but the Cardinals answered with back-to-back doubles by Marty Marion and Mickey Owen. Warneke helped his own cause with a single that scored Owen. In the third inning, Mize’s 22nd home run of the season gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.

The Giants took the lead in the top of the fourth, chasing Warneke from the game with five consecutive hits to open the inning. After Jurges singled to give the Giants the lead, Cardinals manager Billy Southworth replaced Warneke with Jack Russell, a 15-year veteran from Paris, Texas. Russell got Hubbell to hit into a 6-4-3 double play that gave the Giants a 5-3 lead before ending the inning.

New York added another run in the sixth after Russell walked Mel Ott and Tony Cuccinello. Jurges followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Ott scored on a groundout by Hubbell to make the score 6-3.

In the seventh, the Cardinals rallied to tie the score against a tiring Hubbell. Don Gutteridge, pinch-hitting for Russell, reached on an infield single. Hubbell walked Jimmy Brown and Martin hit a run-scoring single before Mize, who doubled to right field in the fifth, followed with an RBI single of his own to chase Hubbell from the game. Giants reliever Jumbo Brown walked Ernie Koy to load the bases and Joe Orengo hit a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game 6-6.

The Cardinals’ Max Lanier and the Giants’ Red Lynn each retired the side in order in the eighth, and Lanier induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the ninth. After Martin struck out to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Mize stepped to the plate a triple shy of the cycle. Incredibly, he got it when he smacked a drive off the concrete center-field wall 412 feet from home plate. Giants left fielder Jo-Jo Moore retrieved the ball and fired it back to the infield, but Jurges briefly mishandled the ball before relaying it to the catcher, Harry “The Horse” Danning.

Coaching at third base, Southworth saw Jurges’ misplay and sent Mize home. At first, that appeared to be a mistake. “Mize looked like a gone goose, but Danning, over-eager, despite a thin veneer of nonchalance, took his eye off the ball to see whether he’d have Mize by 10 feet or 20 and that was his undoing,” J. Roy Stockton wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.[1] “He fumbled the bounding ball and Mize scored the winning run.”

The official scorer ruled the play a triple with an error on Danning, simultaneously taking away Mize’s RBI and giving him the cycle.

Mize’s four-hit day raised his season average to .292 and paced a Cardinals offense that finished the game with 13 hits. Lanier was credited with the win after pitching two scoreless innings in relief, while Lynn took the loss for the Giants.

In the second game of the double-header, the Cardinals again broke a ninth-inning tie with a clutch walk-off hit, this time an RBI single by Terry Moore. With the wins, the Cardinals improved to 29-41 on the season and 14-12 under Southworth, who had taken over the club after Ray Blades opened the season with a 14-24 mark and Mike Gonzalez went 1-5 in six games as the interim manager.

The double-header may have been a turning point for both clubs. While the Giants stumbled to a sixth-place finish, Southworth’s Cardinals surged, finishing the year with an 84-69 record, good for third place in the National League.

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[1] J. Roy Stockton, “Cards Beat Giants Twice in Ninth, 7-6, 4-3,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 14, 1940.

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