Hitting for the cycle is one of the rarest feats in baseball, witnessed by the fact that no Met had done it in the nine years before Keith Hernandez collected a single, double, triple and homer in a game that began July 4, 1985.
Even more rare, to the point of being unfathomable, is having completed the cycle seven innings before the final out. That was part of the fabric of the Mets' 16-13, 19-inning win over the Braves that ended at 3:55 a.m., a game that winning pitcher Tom Gorman called at the time "the weirdest game I've ever seen."
After the game, Hernandez said it was fortunate that he finished the cycle with a single in the 12th. "That was good, because my last times up, I couldn't even carry my bat," he said. Looking back on it now, he recalls that he should have had the cycle wrapped up by the eighth.
In the third inning, he hit a liner to centerfield. "Dale Murphy made a diving catch, but he rolled over and dropped the ball," Hernandez said this past week, adding that he could see it from first base but second-base umpire Gerry Davis was blocked out by Murphy's tumbling body.
"He definitely grabbed the ball. I would have had a cycle in regulation, but I got it in extra innings," Hernandez said. "When I wound up on second base later, we had a good laugh about it."
All the Mets could do was laugh, especially when they got to the clubhouse at 4 a.m. and heard a postgame fireworks show outside. "It's all such a blur," Hernandez said. "I do know I slept until well after noon after that."
Howard Johnson, who entered the rain-delayed July 4 game as a pinch hitter in the ninth and went 3-for-5 with a homer and four runs scored the rest of the way, said he thought of that game while he was in the dugout (as Mets batting coach) for their 20-inning win in St. Louis April 17.
"After you've been in a game like that, when you do play a nine-inning game, it feels like it goes by in 30 minutes," he said.
On July 5, 1985, Rick Aguilera pitched a complete game that lasted only 2 hours, 40 minutes.