June 27, 1973: Joe Torre hits for the cycle with an assist from Red Schoendienst

On June 27, 1973, Joe Torre hit for the cycle for the first time in his 13-year major league career. He had Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst to thank for it.

After hitting an eighth-inning triple to move within a single of the cycle, Torre asked Schoendienst to remove him from the game. Sensing that Torre – slated to bat fifth in the ninth inning – still had an opportunity at history, Schoendienst kept his first baseman in the lineup.

“I told him he might get another shot,” Schoendienst said. “I told him to stay in there.”[1]

It proved to be the right decision.

“You have to give Red an assist,” Torre said. “I’m glad he ignored me this time.”[2]

Torre’s cycle paced a 22-hit offensive attack in the Cardinals’ 15-4 victory over the defending National League champion Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium.

The first Pittsburgh pitcher to fall victim to the St. Louis bats was 30-year-old left-hander Jim Rooker, who was making his first start of the season after thriving in a relief role. Rooker would go on to win 10 games that season, the first of five consecutive campaigns with double-digit win totals. This game, however, would not count toward the win column.

The first four Cardinals batters each pounded hits as Lou Brock and Ted Sizemore singled, Torre hit an RBI double off the wall, and Ted Simmons followed with a two-run double to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead.

Willie Stargell hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first off Cardinals starting pitcher Reggie Cleveland to cut the lead to 3-1, but the Cardinals broke the game open in the third as Torre and Simmons each hit solo home runs. After Ken Reitz singled and Bill Stein doubled, the Pirates inserted another left-hander, Luke Walker.

Walker didn’t fare any better. Jose Cruz and Mike Tyson greeted Walker with consecutive RBI singles. Another run scored on a Pirates error and Tyson scored on a wild pitch before the inning ended with the Cardinals ahead 9-1.

With a double and a home run under his belt, Torre opened the fourth inning with a triple off Pittsburgh right-hander Bob Johnson. Batting next, Simmons drove Torre home with a sacrifice fly to right field.

“I didn’t think I’d ever hit for the cycle because I’m not a triples hitter,” Torre said.[3]

Brock added an RBI single in the seventh before Torre came up again in the eighth. Facing Steve Blass, Torre walked on five pitches and it looked as though he may fall short in his bid for the cycle.

However, after Blass retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth, he walked Cleveland and Bernie Carbo to bring Torre to the plate. On a 3-1 pitch, Torre rose to the occasion with a single up the middle to score Carbo and complete the cycle. He clapped his hands in celebration on his way to first base.[4]

“I was pressing like crazy for the single,” he said.[5]

Simmons followed with an RBI double and Reitz added a two-run single to make the final score 15-4.

In addition to Torre’s four hits, three RBIs, and four runs scored, Reitz finished the day with four hits and two RBIs. Simmons went 3-for-4 with two doubles and five RBIs, and Brock and Cruz each had three hits. Every player in the starting lineup had a hit, and the Cardinals finished with nine extra-base hits – six doubles, Torre’s triple, and two home runs.

“The trick tonight was figuring out who hit the game-winning RBI,” said Tim McCarver, who sat while Simmons handled the catching duties. “That’d take a mathematician, wouldn’t it?”[6]

With the loss, the last-place Pirates fell to 31-39 on the season.

“If it has been unfair before now to refer to Pirate pitching as a travesty, the ban is henceforth lifted,” Jeff Samuels wrote in The Pittsburgh Press.[7]

“Do I have any ideas how to straighten things out?” Pirates manager Bill Virdon asked in response to a reporter’s question. “I don’t know what the hell they would be. What do you do with pitching like this? You just keep running ’em out there.”[8]

Cleveland pitched all nine innings for the Cardinals, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out five.

Torre was named to his ninth and final all-star game that summer and finished the year with a .287 batting average, 13 homers, and 69 RBIs. Following the 1974 season, the Brooklyn native was traded to the Mets for Tommy Moore and Ray Sadecki and played his final three seasons in New York. Torre retired with a career .297 batting average, totaling 252 home runs, 996 runs scored, and 1,185 RBIs.

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[1] Jeff Samuels, “Bucs Lambasted, 15-4,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1973.

[2] Neal Russo, “Torre’s Cycle Powers Cards,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28, 1973.

[3] Neal Russo, “Torre’s Cycle Powers Cards,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28, 1973.

[4] Jeff Samuels, “Bucs Lambasted, 15-4,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1973.

[5] Neal Russo, “Torre’s Cycle Powers Cards,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28, 1973.

[6] Charley Feeney, “Cards Stagger Limp Bucs, 15-4,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 28, 1973.

[7] Jeff Samuels, “Bucs Lambasted, 15-4,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1973.

[8] Jeff Samuels, “Bucs Lambasted, 15-4,” The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1973.

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