Stan Musial

July 24, 1949: Stan Musial hits for the cycle

On July 24, 1949, Stan Musial hit for the only cycle of his illustrious career, helping to power the St. Louis Cardinals into first place in the National League with an emphatic 14-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Though the clubs were still in the dog days of summer, Musial’s achievement came in a series featuring the two teams remaining in the National League pennant chase. Heading into the Cardinals’ four-game series against the Dodgers at Ebbetts Field, St. Louis trailed Brooklyn by 2 ½ games. By the time the two teams took the field for the third game of the series, that lead was all but gone.

In the opener, 30-year-old right-hander Red Munger pitched a complete game and Musial homered off Preacher Roe in a 3-1 victory. The next day, Marty Marion and Joe Garagiola hit back-to-back RBI singles in the top of the ninth to lift St. Louis to a 5-4 victory.

As a result, the Cardinals entered the Sunday just ½ game behind the league-leading Dodgers. On the mound for St. Louis was Howie Pollet, a 6-foot-1 lefthander and two-time all-star. Pollet entered the game with a 12-5 record and 2.67 ERA, though he had allowed four earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings in his previous start.

The Dodgers countered with Don Newcombe, a 23-year-old rookie who was on his way to winning National League Rookie of the Year Honors. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander entered the game with a 7-2 record and a 3.80 ERA. In two previous appearances against the Cardinals – one start and one in relief – he had allowed seven earned runs in nine innings.

Once again, the Cardinals proved a tough opponent for Newcombe. As Dick Young wrote in the New York Daily News, “This wasn’t the type of parlor brawl that warms up gradually.”[1] Red Schoendienst and Lou Klein each greeted Newcombe with singles before a wild pitch allowed Schoendienst to score. Musial followed with a triple to center field that scored Klein and abruptly chased Newcombe from the game. With Paul Minner on the mound for the Dodgers, Enos Slaughter drove Musial home with a single into left, and Ron Northey chased Slaughter home with a double.

Already ahead 4-0, the Cardinals put the game out of reach in the third inning. Slaughter doubled and scored on a Northey single. Rocky Nelson added an RBI triple to chase Minner from the game, and Marion greeted Dodgers reliever Carl Erskine with an RBI single. With two outs, Klein singled up the middle to score Marion. Musial followed with a single, and an error by Dodgers catcher Bruce Edwards allowed two runs to score, giving the Cardinals a 10-0 lead.

Jackie Robinson hit an RBI single in the third to put the Dodgers on the scoreboard, but Musial answered in the fifth with a solo home run off Erskine.

“There was immense awe in the park in the fifth over Musial’s 18th homer (of the season),” the St. Louis Star and Times reported. “Here was a perhaps 440-foot smash that cleared the high center field wall toward right, bounded into Bedford Ave. and caroming off an automobile agency sign with a bang fully as loud as the Dodgers made in tumbling from the lead they’ve held slightly over a month.”[2]

Two innings later, Musial completed his cycle. With runners on first and second, Musial smacked a two-run double to center field, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 13-1 and giving him a single, double, triple, and home run in the game. Chuck Diering drove Musial home with a single into center field to produce the final 14-1 score.

By the eighth inning, the Brooklyn crowd of 34,042 – the third-largest attendance to that point in the season[3] – had largely evaporated. When Musial came to the plate in the ninth inning, those remaining cheered him, then booed Erskine after he walked Musial on five pitches.[4]

“The real reason they stayed, pal, was to see Musial bat one more time in the ninth,” Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer said. “Too bad Stan walked that time.”[5]

With the win, the Cardinals moved into first place in the National League. The St. Louis Star and Times reported that, “Photographers and ordinarily alien reporters swarmed the faraway corner of Ebbets Field known as the visitors’ clubhouse. The place had a World Series game air as flashbulbs and questions popped simultaneously into the faces of the demolition boys, Stan (The Man) Musial and Enos Slaughter. The Red Bird miracle men were back on top of the National League for the first time since June 24, and for all the Dodgers and all Flatbush seemed able to do about it, were there to stay.”[6]

Musial’s performance continued his success against Dodgers pitching. With his four-hit game, Musial upped his season average against Brooklyn to .552 with four homers and 10 RBIs.[7] It was no wonder that the Brooklyn Eagle reported that each time Musial came to the plate, Roe would tie a towel around his neck and pretend to hang himself from the Dodgers’ dugout roof.[8]

Pollet pitched the entire game for St. Louis, allowing one run while striking out five. Newcombe took the loss for Brooklyn.

Interestingly, Musial came just shy of another cycle the following day, a 4-4 tie that was halted to allow both teams to travel for their next game the following day. In that contest, Musial went 3-for-4 with a single, double, and triple.

Though the Cardinals enjoyed the upper hand during their July season, it was the Dodgers who won the National League pennant, going 97-57 to beat the Cardinals by a game. The Dodgers lost that season’s World Series to the Yankees in five games.

After winning three of the previous five National League MVP awards, Musial placed second in the 1949 balloting, the first of three consecutive years in which he would place second for the league’s top individual honor. He finished the year with a .338 batting average and led the league with 207 hits, 41 doubles, 13 triples, and a .438 on-base percentage.

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[1] Dick Young, “Cards in 1st! Rip Flock, 14-1; Musial ‘Hits for Cycle,’” New York Daily News, July 25, 1949.

[2] “Musial, Pollet Mop Up On Dodgers, 14-1,” St. Louis Star and Times, July 25, 1949.

[3] Dick Young, “Cards in 1st! Rip Flock, 14-1; Musial ‘Hits for Cycle,’” New York Daily News, July 25, 1949.

[4] “Musial, Pollet Mop Up On Dodgers, 14-1,” St. Louis Star and Times, July 25, 1949.

[5] “Musial Hits for the Cycle In Pollet’s 14-1 Runaway,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1949.

[6] “Musial, Pollet Mop Up On Dodgers, 14-1,” St. Louis Star and Times, July 25, 1949.

[7] “Musial Hits for the Cycle In Pollet’s 14-1 Runaway,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 25, 1949.

[8] Harold C. Burr, “Missouri Murder, Inc., Pushes Cards Into First,” Brooklyn Eagle, July 25, 1949.