Aaron Judge has now hit at least one home run in five straight games, and two of them were game-winners. He is a staggering titan of sport, and may be a demigod. Watch the devastating powquidity of this swing (that’s a combination of power and liquidity):
I was surprised to learn when I looked it up today that the record for most consecutive games with a home run is only eight. It’s been done three times, by Dale Long (’56), Don Mattingly (’87), and Ken Griffey Jr. (’93). Dale Long had the best quote, 30 years after he set the mark and one year before Mattingly tied it:
“Someday somebody will break it, and they’ll forget me.”
I love fatalistic oldsters. And truth be told, I had no idea who Dale Long was before this, so at least to me, he was already forgotten. And now he’s remembered, but only briefly. There’s too much happening.
Anyway, I hope Judge breaks it, but this got me thinking about home runs in general, and a feat that has never been accomplished in an MLB game: The home run cycle.
The home run cycle is easy to understand: Four home runs in a game, of four different types. To accomplish it, you must hit a solo shot, a two-run homer, a three-run homer, and a grand slam. All within one game.
What I like about this mythical achievement is that it takes both great skill and (possibly) great(er) luck. There have been only 18 four-homer games in MLB history, starting with Bobby Lowe of the Boston Beaneaters in 1894 (yes, seriously) and ending, for now, with J.D. Martinez in 2017. Nobody has ever hit five, and nobody has hit four twice. Of the 18, none have been home run cycles, which is what you’d expect considering the long odds against having the perfect number of people on base each time. I’m no math whiz, but when you combine the rarity of the 4-homer game with the near-impossibility of perfect baserunner alignment, this has to be one of the great white whales of sports. To channel my inner Dale Long: We’ll all probably die without seeing this.
There have been a couple close calls, though. Scooter Gennett, who hit four homers in 2017, had a grand slam, a solo, and a pair of two-run homers. (Amazingly, Gennett has just 87 home runs in his entire career, and the dude is 30…how he hit four in a game is beyond me). In a 2005 game, A-Rod had a grand slam, three-run, and two-run homer by the fourth inning. He came up twice more with nobody on base, and in the eighth he hit a shot to center, but it was caught.
One person, in the professional game, has managed it. That person is journeyman Tyrone Horne, who hit for the home run cycle in a Double-A game for the Arkansas Travelers in 1998. Incredibly, he did it all by the sixth inning, in a game with the wind blowing in, when nobody else on either team hit even one. Horne never made it to the big leagues, and had to retire at age 31 due to neck problems, but he’s got a great story that includes getting his college degree in his 30s while working full-time by night at Thrifty Car Rentals in Idaho. You can read all about him here.
Back when I worked for Grantland, I actually contacted Horne on Facebook with the thought of doing a story about him. At that point, more than 25 years after the night in question, he was still looking for video footage. Which, to me, added to the mythic quality of the whole thing—you couldn’t even see it! Our interview didn’t pan out, but I think it might be time to get in touch again. Why? I don’t know, beyond the fact that it’s an arcane bit of baseball trivia that nobody else might ever accomplish, and yet you could poll 1,000 hardcore baseball fans and maybe ten, at most, would know Horne’s name.
There’s also something cool about the fact that he’s achieved something that literally no other human being, on the professional level, has ever done. George Carlin had a bit about saying a sentence that nobody had ever said before, but Horne did something unique that some of the world’s best athletes have been attempting for more than 100 years. Put that way, I hope nobody ever duplicates it…even Aaron Judge. Horne’s story is too good for him to go the way of Dale…Dale…Dale…
I forget his last name.