Aaron Hill’s Cycle and Recycle


Hitting for the cycle is one of those great baseball oddities that fans appreciate, that are enjoyed by players and recognized by all as an achievement. It’s just difficult to categorize how valuable an achievement it is, other than the consensus that it’s a cool thing to do.

Testing my memory I have concluded that in all of the Major League games I have witnessed in person over about a 50-year period I have never seen a player hit for the cycle. I would rather see someone throw a no-hitter, but I’d like to see someone hit for the cycle.

Cycles arrived like cyclones, pretty much unpredictably. Hitting a single, double, triple and home run in one game is neat, and presumably it helps your team win, thought it is hard to classify the performance on a greatness scale. I’d say not as good as hitting four home runs in a game, but better than hitting four singles in a game.

Hitting for the cycle is a rare accomplishment, but far from unique. It is something that just comes along as a game plays out and cannot be premeditated. It is worth taking note when a player hits for the cycle, but when Aaron Hill, the secondbaseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit for the cycle twice in June that was attention-getting since it seriously defied the laws of probability.

Hill hit for the cycle on June 18 against the Seattle Mariners. Then he hit for the cycle June 29 against the Milwaukee Brewers. That is statistically spooky. Hill joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Babe Herman as the only player since 1900 to hit for the cycle twice in one season. Herman did it twice in 1931. He also hit for the cycle in 1933.

The double cycle, for lack of a better description, comes around about as often as Halley’s Comet–almost never.

Hitting for the cycle doesn’t make you an All-Star. It doesn’t enhance your candidacy for the Hall of Fame. It does mean you were opportunistic and that you somehow took advantage of the chance to pull it off when it came your way.

I remember a few years ago when I came upon a surprising statistic: In the history of Major League baseball there had been exactly the same number of no-hitters thrown by pitchers as there had been batters hitting for the cycle. I don’t know what this means, but I thought it was darned interesting. Anyway, since then a gap has been created and there are now 294 occasions of hitting for the cycle (first one recorded in 1882) and 272 no-hitters.

Two other players prior to 1900 hit for the cycle twice in the same season. Tip O’Neill of the St. Louis Brown Stockings did so in 1887. And John Reilly of the Cincinnati Reds did so twice in a week, Sept. 12 and Sept. 19, 1883. Reilly also hit for the cycle a third time in 1890. Ironically, just a week ago Reilly was inducted in the Reds’ team Hall of Fame, bringing attention to his century-plus-old career for the first time in ages.

Just like no-hitters hitting for the cycle in a game seems like spontaneous combustion. A player could do it today, or it might not happen again for the rest of the season.

Ted Williams hit for the cycle. So did Stan Musial, George Brett, George Kell, Ralph Kiner and Larry Doby among some Hall of Famers with the feat on their resume. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Roberto Clemente never did. Wally Westlake did it twice. Tony Horton, Elmer Valo, and Jim Hickman are in the company of Williams and Musial.

The event seems pretty random (other than a player having a hot day), but Hill hitting for the cycle twice in one season seems more memorable. My favorite comment about Hill’s accomplishment was uttered by Milwaukee pitcher Randy Wolf. He said, “A cycle is one of those crazy things and to do it twice in (12 days)–that’s crazy.”

Indeed, the same player hitting for two cycles in the same month, is baseball crazy.