Ken Boyer

September 14, 1961: Ken Boyer hits walk-off home run to complete the cycle

On September 14, 1961, all-star Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer became the first player in major league history to complete the cycle with a walk-off home run.

Boyer’s 11th-inning, game-winning blast against the Cubs concluded a busy day in the batter’s box for Boyer, who totaled seven hits in the evening double-header. In the opener, an 8-7 Cardinals win, Boyer went 2-for-5 with a two-run triple in the fifth inning. The Cardinals won the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Bob Lillis scored on a passed ball.

It proved to be one of two walk-off wins for the Cardinals that day.

The 40-year-old Stan Musial, who went 3-for-4 with his 13th home run of the season in the opener, was out of the lineup in the second game so Boyer moved up to the cleanup spot. The Cubs started Jack Curtis, a rookie left-hander from North Carolina who entered the game with a 10-11 record and a 4.52 ERA.

The Cardinals answered with Curt Simmons, a 32-year-old left-hander who already was in his 13th major league season despite missing the 1951 campaign due to military service (he appeared in one game as an 18-year-old in 1947). Simmons entered the game with a 3.24 ERA and an 8-10 record.

The Cardinals scored two quick runs for Simmons in the first. After Julian Javier drew a one-out walk, Bill White hit an RBI triple into right field and Boyer singled to left to score White.

Boyer got his second hit of the day when he singled off Curtis again in the third inning.

In the fourth, the Cubs tied the score as Ernie Banks hit an RBI double and George Altman added a sacrifice fly. Curt Flood gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead with an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning, but the Cubs answered when Ron Santo hit a three-run homer to left field. St. Louis right fielder Charlie James homered in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Cubs’ lead to 5-4.

After six innings, Boyer certainly didn’t appear likely to hit for the cycle. In addition to his two singles, he had grounded out to lead off the fifth, leaving him a double, triple, and home run shy of the feat. In the seventh inning, however, he tripled to left field, chasing Curtis from the game as Cubs manager El Tappe turned to reliever Bob Anderson. Anderson struck out Carl Sawatski and got James to ground out to end the inning.

When Boyer next stepped to the plate, his thoughts were simply on keeping the Cardinals’ hopes for a double-header sweep alive. St. Louis still trailed 5-4 when White drew a one-out walk. Boyer followed with a double to right field that tied the game and sent it into extra innings.

In the 10th, Flood and Javier each singled to put runners at first and third for White, but Anderson struck out the Cardinals first baseman to send the game into the 11th. There, St. Louis reliever Craig Anderson retired Bob Will, Billy Williams, and Banks in order.

Don Elston took the mound for the Cubs, but it proved to be a short outing. Boyer led off the inning with a game-winning home run to right field, completing his cycle as he ended the game at 12:21 a.m.[1]  

In addition to becoming the first player to complete a cycle with a walk-off homer, Boyer joined Musial as the only Cardinals to hit two walk-off home runs in multiple seasons. Boyer hit two walk-off home runs in 1958, and already had one 1961 walk-off homer on August 8.

The 6-5 win also gave the Cardinals a season sweep of the Cubs at Busch Stadium I, with wins in all 11 match-ups at the old ballpark that season.

Craig Anderson earned the win for the Cardinals after throwing three innings of scoreless relief. Bob Miller played a key role as well, throwing 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief of Simmons, who allowed five runs – two earned – in 4 2/3 innings.

In addition to Boyer’s five hits, Flood added three and Javier had two.

With seven hits in the double-header, Boyer ended the day with a .333 batting average, trailing only Roberto Clemente (.359) and Vada Pinson (.344) for the National League lead.[2]

“I’ve always had one bad month a season until this year,” Boyer said.[3]

Boyer finished the year with a career-high .329 batting average to go along with 24 homers and 95 RBIs. It marked the third of six consecutive all-star seasons for the Alba, Missouri, native, culminating in a National League MVP season in 1964.

In 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Boyer appeared in seven all-star games, hit .293, and totaled 255 homers and 1,001 RBIs. Following the 1965 season, he was traded to the Mets, then went on to play for the White Sox and Dodgers in the later years of his career. He retired after 15 seasons.

In 1978, Boyer was named manager of the Cardinals, a role he held until 1980. Over three seasons, his teams went 166-190.

Boyer’s number 14 was retired in 1984 and he was inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. He passed away in 1982.

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[1] Neal Russo, “Boyer’s Seven Hits Help Cards Beat Cubs Twice, 8-7, 6-5,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15, 1961.

[2] Neal Russo, “Boyer’s Seven Hits Help Cards Beat Cubs Twice, 8-7, 6-5,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15, 1961.

[3] Neal Russo, “Boyer’s Seven Hits Help Cards Beat Cubs Twice, 8-7, 6-5,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15, 1961.

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