Houston Astros OF Brandon Barnes’ Cycle and the 9 Most Difficult Feats in Baseball
9 Most Difficult Feats in Baseball
Friday night, Houston Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes accomplished a very uncommon feat: hitting for the cycle.
For those of you who do not know what that means, Barnes had a single, a double, a triple and a home run all in one game. In today’s game, which favors power hitters and features outfielders with cannons for arms, hitting a triple is a much more difficult feat than blasting a ball over the fence. But Barnes did both and added a single and a double on top of that.
Barnes’ cycle is not the first of the 2013 MLB season, as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout accomplished this feat back in May. Nevertheless, this is a very rare feat. The number of occurrences in one season can generally be counted on one hand if not two.
Although hitting for the cycle is fairly uncommon, there are some achievements in baseball that are much rarer. There are unlikely but true stories about players and teams accomplishing far-fetched feats. In 1938, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer threw no-hitters in back-to-back starts. This is one of those records that will probably never be duplicated, and it is almost certain no one will ever throw three in a row.
Similarly, in 1999, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Fernando Tatis managed to come up with the bases loaded and smacked a home run or, colloquially, a grand slam. Although the grand slam is not terribly uncommon, Tatis cemented himself in folklore forever by coming again later that very inning and, with the bases again loaded, hit a second grand slam! Whenever someone asks me what I believe is the most unbreakable record in baseball, this is my go-to example.
But let’s get back to the idea at hand and consider some of the rarest but possible-to-duplicate feats in baseball.
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No. 9: Golden Sombrero
The Golden Sombrero is the only disgraceful feat on this list. The batter who manages to accomplish the Golden Sombrero is one who strikes out four times in one game. If the game runs long and the batter gets more at bats, he can earn the Platinum or Titanium Sombrero by striking out five or six times in a game, respectively. Unfortunately, only one of the rest of these feats have cool names like the last, but that does not make them less impressive.
No. 8: 4 Homers in One Game
This rare feat has only been achieved 15 times in MLB history. It has happened four times since the turn of the millennium, and the most recent instance came from the man featured above. Josh Hamilton, then of the Texas Rangers, smacked four dingers in one game in May 2012. This is one of the most exciting for fans to see and one of the worst to give up as opposing teams have been known to “purposefully” walk a batter who already has three home runs.
No. 7: Stealing Home
Every fan loves to see a speedster on third base leading off, just tempting the pitcher to take enough time to allow him to race home and beat the catcher’s tag. Any baseball fan who has seen the classic movie The Sandlot remembers the epic conclusion with Benny the Jet stealing home. This is a play that is rare but so loved by baseball fans.
No. 6: Hitting for the Cycle
As mentioned earlier, hitting for the cycle is a very difficult task. Before Barnes’ cycle on Friday, there had been only 301 instances in baseball history, which makes the cycle just a bit more common than a no-hitter. Alas, with the recent days of baseball being favored towards the pitcher, it almost feels as if the no-hitter has recently become more common.
No. 5: Three-Pitch Inning
This feat happens when one pitcher manages to get three outs on only three total pitches. It is a very unlikely feat, as many hitters do not tend to swing at the first pitch. BaseballAlmanac.com states that one of the recorded instances came from Jerry Terrell, an infielder who took the mound for his first appearance as pitcher in the ninth inning of a game. The most recent pitcher to accomplish this was Randy Wells, who is pictured above.
No. 4: No-Hitter
The no-hitter, most recently accomplished in the last week by San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum has only happened 227 times in the modern era of baseball (since 1901). This is one of the most endurance-related feats, as a pitcher has to last all nine innings in a game and not allow a single hit. Although some people consider a team no-hitter in which the starting pitcher does not last the whole game, but no pitcher allows a hit, to be a no-hitter, I do not consider these nine occurrences to count.
No. 3: Perfect Game
The extraordinary perfect game has happened only 23 times in over 130 years of baseball history! Three MLB pitchers threw perfect games in the 2012 season, with the most recent being Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Believe you me, it is an extremely rare feat. From 1922 to 1988, there were a mere eight perfect games thrown. It takes a brilliant pitching performance to face 27 batters and to retire them all in a row.
No. 2: Unassisted Triple Play
The unassisted triple play is known as the rarest play in all of baseball. A triple play, which is also extremely uncommon, is when a team manages to get three opposing players out all in one play. The difference here is the “unassisted,” which means one player on the defending team was responsible for recording all three outs himself. For example, a shortstop could have a line drive smoked right at him and the runners on first and second started taking off because they thought it was going to be a hit. The shortstop could quickly step on second and throw to first for the unassisted and amazing triple play. As pictured above, Asdrubal Cabrera has one of the most recent unassisted triple plays, which happened in 2008.
No. 1: Hitting for the Grand Cycle
Although the unassisted triple play is known by most to be the rarest of all baseball plays, most of these people have not heard of the Grand Cycle. The reason they have not heard of it is because it has not actually ever happened. In fact, the Grand Cycle is merely something I concocted in my mind, so bear with me as I explain.
One day, I got the idea of trying to think of a baseball feat that could reasonably happen but still be seemingly impossible, and I came up with the Grand Cycle. I define this great feat as one batter having a solo home run, a two-run shot, a three-run shot and a grand slam all in the same game. The one, two, three, four nature of the feat is why I used the “Cycle” and the “Grand” seemed to top it off nicely.
Although this has never happened and probably never will, if it does, let it be known to all that I was the first to coin the term! When it does happen, the celebration will be so much more joyous and crazier than the scene depicted above. So that does it for my list. If you have any thoughts or remember seeing any of these happen, please feel free to share them in the comments below.