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This Day in Yankees History: Bob Meusel and the Record Tri-Cycle- July 26, 1928

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Disclaimer: Here's a delayed "This Day" feature from yesterday. I started to have killer headaches while writing this last night, so I had to put the glowing rectangle away for awhile. There will be a "This Day" coming later today for July 27th as well.

Bob Meusel is somewhat forgotten in Yankees history, but the righthanded California boy's offensive contributions throughout the decade of the 1920s nicely complemented the incredible offensive exploits of the lefthanded Babe Ruth prior to the emergence of Lou Gehrig. Meusel slugged 146 homers in 10 years with the Yankees, and he was the American League's home run champion in 1925 with a career-high 33 bombs ('25 was one of only two seasons between 1918-31 that Ruth did not lead the league in homers). Meusel's last great season with the Yankees was in '28, a year in which he helped them win their sixth AL pennant of the decade and their third World Series title. That year, he hit .297/.349/.467 with 45 doubles and 11 homers, good for a 113 wRC+. The Yankees still had much of their legendary "Murderer's Row" intact from the year before, when they set a then-AL record with 110 victories, and they were steamrolling through the AL again in '28. Remarkably, Meusel was one of six Yankee starters to notch a wRC+ of at least 100 in '28. On the morning of July 26th, they were a ridiculous 40 games over .500, at 67-27. They began their second doubleheader in a row against the cellar-dwelling Detroit Tigers.

27-year-old rookie Vic Sorrell started the game for the Detroit Tigers against Brooklyn native Waite Hoyt, a future Hall of Famer. While few were surprised that Hoyt pitched well against a stumbling Tiger team, not many people could have predicted the solid game Sorrell pitched against the tremendous Yankee lineup. The Wake Forest alum carried a 4.11 ERA into the game, but through 11 innings, the Yankees managed just one run against the righthander. That one run came off the bat of Meusel. "Long Bob" was in a small slump, with one hit in his previous 16 at bats, and he struck out in his first two times at the dish in this game. Then, in the sixth inning, Meusel slammed a Sorrell pitch over the scoreboard in left field for a solo homer. His eighth dinger of the year gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and Hoyt carried a shutout into the ninth inning. Meusel tried to spark a rally for insurance runs in the top of the ninth with a double, but he was stranded in scoring position. Tiger manager George Moriarty decided a fresh hitter was needed against the dominating Hoyt, so he pinch-hit for his leadoff hitter, third baseman Jack Warner, with primary catcher Pinky Hargrave. Although Hargrave only hit 39 homers in a 10-year career, he belted a Hoyt pitch into the bleachers to tie the game.

In an era before relievers were common, Hoyt and Sorrell continued to pitch deep into the game. Meusel singled in the eleventh inning in another attempt to start a rally, but the Yankees were unable to score. Meusel now had three of the Yankees' five hits on the day against Sorrell. He also now stood a triple away from an incredible achievement; he had hit for the cycle twice in his career already, once on May 7, 1921 and again on July 3, 1922. No player in AL history had ever hit three cycles in his career, and only John Reilly of the Cincinnati Reds accomplished this feat in the National League (twice in a week in 1893, and once in 1890). After Hoyt retired the side in the bottom of the eleventh, the Yankees exploded against Sorrell in the twelfth. They thoroughly destroyed Sorrell's terrific pitching line on the day by scoring an extra-inning record 11 runs on 10 hits--two walks, five singles, three doubles, and two triples. Sorrell's line went from 11 innings, one run, five hits to 12 innings, 12 runs, 15 hits, raising his season ERA from 3.67 at the start of the inning to 4.81 by the time the carnage ended. Meusel completed his cycle by slapping one of the team's two triples on the inning. Hoyt pitched a scoreless twelfth to mercifully end the game, 12-1 in favor of the Yankees.

Meusel might not be the most memorable name in Yankees history, but his AL record of three career cycles has never been matched. No team has ever matched the Yankees' extra-inning record 11-run twelfth inning, either.

Box score. Recap.

Further sources: Tan, Cecilia. The 50 Greatest Yankee Games. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.