Ted Williams hits for the cycle, collects seven hits in doubleheader
He had just returned to baseball after spending three years in the Marines World War II, but Ted Williams showed no signs of rust in 1946.
The Red Sox’ star left fielder announced his return to action with authority, getting off to a scorching start to the season. And on July 21, 1946, Teddy Ballgame’s name was all over the headlines, as he put together an exceptional day at the plate in a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns, capping things off by hitting for the cycle in game two.
“Ted Williams enjoyed one of his more spectacular days at bat yesterday, contributed seven hits, scored two runs, batted in three and generally demoralized the Brownie pitching,” sportswriter Dent McSkimming wrote in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Williams already had the makings of a good offensive day in game one, going 3-for-4 with a double and two singles. The Red Sox won 5-0 behind a complete game shutout from right-hander Dave Ferriss.
In game two, Williams got the hard part of the cycle done early. He led off the bottom of the second with a homer – his 27th of the season – to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Then, in the bottom of the third, he followed up Dom DiMaggio’s solo homer by tripling.
Williams tacked on his second RBI of the game in the bottom of the fifth with a single that extended the Red Sox’ lead to 5-2. And in his first opportunity to complete the cycle, Williams got the job done, leading off the bottom of the seventh with a double.
Williams got one more chance to add on in the bottom of the eighth, but he struck out looking on three pitches. The Red Sox completed a sweep of the twin billing by closing out a 7-4 win, and Williams raised his batting average to .365 with his seven hits on the day.
“While manager Luke Sewell and his Browns were on their way back to Sportsman’s Park for a 20-game home stand which opens tomorrow night against the New York Yankees, the St. Louis American Leaguers had until midnight tonight – when their train is due at Union Station – to mutter to themselves about the power of one Theodore Samuel Williams,” St. Louis Star-Times sportswriter James L. Toomey wrote.
At the time, hitting for the cycle was a relatively rare feat – occurring less frequently than no-hitters. Williams was one of just two players to do it in 1946, following Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators on May 19. The next person to accomplish the feat was Williams’ teammate and fellow future Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, who hit for the cycle on May 13, 1947.
With 64 games left to play following the doubleheader sweep of St. Louis, the Red Sox were in a great spot, with a 65-25 record and an 11½ game lead over the second-place Yankees in the American League pennant race.
“Thumping Teddy Williams is baseball’s man of the hour – almost certain to be named most valuable player in the American League if the Boston Red Sox cop the big prize," Associated Press sportswriter Jack Hand wrote.
The Red Sox ran away with the pennant but fell short of the 1946 World Series title, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Williams brought home his first AL MVP Award after a spectacular season in which he batted .342 with a .497 on-base percentage and 38 homers.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum