Triple play

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(Redirected from Unassisted triple play)


A triple play, abbreviated TP, occurs when all three outs in the inning are recorded on the same play. Triple plays are rare occurrences in Major League Baseball. For example, in the 2000s, there were only 35 triple plays in MLB: 5 in 2000, 2 in 2001, 6 in 2002, 2 in 2003, 3 in 2004, 1 in 2005, 5 in 2006, 4 in 2007, 2 in 2008 and 5 in 2009.

Contrary to most double plays, which usually occur on ground balls, triple plays are most often the results of line drives that are caught while runners have left their base, either as a result of a hit-and-run play, a double steal or a spectacular catch on a ball that runners assumed would fall to the ground. In fact, many triple plays are the result of base-running mistakes.

A triple play can also be the result of a ground ball: for example, with no one out and runners on first and second, the batter hits a ground ball to the third baseman playing near the bag; he steps on the base for the first out, throws to the second baseman for the second out, and the second baseman in turns relays to first base for the third out. It sounds simple enough, but it is extremely rare in reality, because the third baseman rarely plays close enough to the bag in such a situation to touch it and throw to second in one motion; if the ball is hit sharply enough, he will throw to second base to start a sure-fire double play rather than try heroically to cut off the lead runner.

Even more rare is the unassisted triple play, where a single defensive player records all three outs. There have only been 15 such triple plays in the regular season in MLB history, one of which took place in the World Series (by second baseman Bill Wambsganss of the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the 1920 World Series on October 10, 1920 (Boxscore)). The last unassisted triple play in the Major Leagues was pulled off by second baseman Eric Bruntlett of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies on August 23 against the New York Mets.

Rarest of all is the unassisted triple play by an outfielder, performed only once in professional baseball history, by Walter Carlisle.

It is possible for a team to score on a triple play, but that is also phenomenally rare. It occurred on July 25, 2017, when the New York Yankees' Todd Frazier grounded into a triple play with the bases loaded; the final out was recorded in a rundown between second and third base, but not before the runner from third base had crossed the plate. The run was allowed to stand because the final out was not recorded on a force out.

The Minnesota Twins are the only team to have turned two triple plays in one game. This occured on July 17, 1990 (Boxscore) against the Boston Red Sox in a 1-0 win by the Red Sox. The triple plays took place in the 4th and 8th innings.

A 2000 article from Baseball Digest indicates that in 1978, a triple play occurred without contact between bat and ball[1]: the batter struck out, and then the runners on both second base and third base were caught off their bases. A similar triple play occurred on September 3rd, 2002.[2]

Unassisted Triple Plays in the Major Leagues[edit]

Player Position Date League Team Opponent Batter Inning Notes
Neal Ball SS July 19, 1909 AL Cleveland Naps Boston Red Sox Amby McConnell 2nd
Bill Wambsganss 2B October 10, 1920 AL Cleveland Indians Brooklyn Robins Clarence Mitchell 5th World Series Game 5
George Burns 1B September 14, 1923 AL Boston Red Sox Cleveland Indians Frank Brower 2nd
Ernie Padgett SS October 6, 1923 NL Boston Braves Philadelphia Phillies Walter Holke 4th
Glenn Wright SS May 7, 1925 NL Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals Jim Bottomley 9th
Jimmy Cooney Jr. SS May 30, 1927 NL Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates Paul Waner 4th
Johnny Neun 1B May 31, 1927 AL Detroit Tigers Cleveland Indians Homer Summa 9th Game-ending play
Ron Hansen SS July 30, 1968 AL Washington Senators Cleveland Indians Joe Azcue 1st
Mickey Morandini 2B September 20, 1992 NL Philadelphia Phillies Pittsburgh Pirates Jeff King 6th
John Valentin SS July 8, 1994 AL Boston Red Sox Seattle Mariners Marc Newfield 6th
Randy Velarde 2B May 29, 2000 AL Oakland Athletics New York Yankees Shane Spencer 6th
Rafael Furcal SS August 10, 2003 NL Atlanta Braves St. Louis Cardinals Woody Williams 5th
Troy Tulowitzki SS April 29, 2007 NL Colorado Rockies Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones 7th
Asdrubal Cabrera 2B May 12, 2008 AL Cleveland Indians Toronto Blue Jays Lyle Overbay 5th
Eric Bruntlett 2B August 23, 2009 NL Philadelphia Phillies New York Mets Jeff Francoeur 9th Game-ending play

Triple Plays in the major leagues[edit]

Retrosheet maintains a complete data base of every triple play that has been turned in a major league games, with all available details, compiled by Chuck Rosciam and Frank Hamilton. The table can be found here:

Further Reading[edit]

  • Michael Clair: "The wildest triple play ever? Probably! Talk about a heads-up play",, September 7, 2022. [3]
  • Ed Eagle and Manny Randhawa: "A look back at every unassisted triple play",, January 1, 2022. [4]
  • James A. "Snuffy" Smith, Jr., Stephen D. Boren and Herm Krabbenhoft: "Instant Relief: First-Batter Triple Plays", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 52 Number 1 (Spring 2023), pp. 14-24.

Related Sites[edit]