In 1991, the San Francisco Giants finished with a 75-87 record. It was the first time in 5 years the club finished below .500 and was just 2 years removed from their appearance in the 1989 World Series. It was also their first losing season under manager Roger Craig.
There were not a lot of highlights during the 1991 season, but one in particular that stands out is Robby Thompson hitting for the cycle on Monday April 22 against the Padres at Candlestick park. Full disclosure, Robby was my favorite Giant growing up. I used to emulate his batting stance and even played 2nd base in my younger years.
Since this particular week in April doesn’t have many big moments in Giants history, let’s take a stroll back to 1991 and Robby’s big day.
The San Diego Padres were in town for a 3-game series. The two teams has faced off to open the season with the Padres taking 2 of 3 from the Giants down in San Diego. Starting for the Giants that day was Kelly Downs as Greg Harris took the ball for the Padres. After a scoreless top of the 1st, it was time for Robby to start doing damage.
Thompson led off for the Giants that night in front of 12,156 fans at Candlestick Park. Harris delivered the first pitch to Thompson, and it was his last pitch on the day. Apparently Harris had an elbow problem that flared up just one pitch into the game. So, Mike Maddux was brought in to finish the at bat and take over for the Padres.
Thompson hit a pop up off Maddux down the RF line, but Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn and second baseman Bip Roberts converged on the ball and collided, allowing the ball to fall and Robby scooted safely over to third base. He didn’t know he was about to hit for the cycle, but he got the hardest part out of the way in his first at bat. Mike Felder drove Robby in with a bunt single to put the Giants ahead 1-0.
Leading off the 3rd inning with the Giants now down 2-1, Thompson homered on an 0-1 pitch from Maddux. The irony of that home run is that on the previous pitch, Robby tried to bunt for a base hit and fouled it off. I guess it was good that he did, because Thompson hit a bomb over the LF wall to get half way to a cycle.
Seeing as how Robby had now ticked off the 2 hardest parts of the cycle, he had a chance at his own history. In the 4th inning, Thompson had his only blemish of the day, striking out swinging to end the inning on Maddux’s last pitch.
In the bottom of the 6th, with the game tied at 4, Thompson singled with 1 out. He was immediately erased on a ground ball double play hit by Felder. But for our purposes here, it was a win. All Robby had left was to hit a double and he would have the 6th cycle in San Francisco Giants history.
In the bottom of the 9th, with the Giants trailing 7-4, Thompson hit a double down the LF line to complete his cycle. He eventually scored on a Will Clark groundout, but it wasn’t enough to save the Giants as they lost to the Padres by a final score of 7-5. Thompson scored 3 of the Giants 5 runs that night.
In the same game, Padres RF Tony Gwynn went 4-for-4 and actually fell just shy of a cycle himself, failing to hit a homer but covering the other 3 parts.
In total, the San Francisco Giants have hit for the cycle 10 times, with the most recent being Pablo Sandoval on Septemebr 15, 2011 in Colorado. There have been 325 cycles in MLB history and the Giants franchise has 22 of them between New York and San Francisco.
Robby Thompson spent his entire 11-year MLB career with the Giants and was a fan favorite. He made the All Star team twice, came in 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1986, and was a key cog in the 1989 and 1993 teams, winning his only Gold Glove during that 1993 campaign. He did not hit for the cycle again.
Boxscore: Padres at Giants, April 22, 1991
Game recap: LA Times