SABR

Tigers best at triple plays

By Raymond J. Gonzalez

This article was published in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal.

Editor's note: This data is current through the 1971 season.

The unassisted triple plays -- seven in regular play and one in a world series -- are so well publicized that we will not dwell on them in this brief summary. The assisted triple play, while not so fantastic, is still a spectacular event.

Since 1901, when the American and National Leagues began operating simultaneously, through 1971 there have been a total of 374 triple plays in the majors, 188 in the AL and 186 in the NL. Detroit leads all teams with 30, followed by the Cards and Pirates with 26. Players at all fielding positions have participated in triple killings, although, as might be expected, outfielders seldom have a chance to get into the act. For the Tigers, the number of players taking part in a triple play has ranged from one (Johnny Neun on Nay 31, 1927) to five (Gehringer, York, Kress, Higgins, and Tebbetts on July 18, 1940). In the latter case, the Tigers ganged up on the batter, Marv Owen, a former teammate who was playing with the Red Sox.

What player has taken part in the most triple plays as a fielder? One of the slickest fielding shortstops of them all, Owen “Donie” Bush, took part in nine, eight with the Tigers and his last one as a member of the Nats. See below:

 

Date Opponents Fielders and Positions
May 4, 1910 Bill Purtell,Chi. Simmons (1B)-Bush (SS)
Apr 24, 1911 Frank LaPorte,Bos. Moriarty (35)-Bush (SB)
May 20, 1911 Harry Davis, Phil. Ness (1B)-Bush (SS)
Sep 9, 1911 Lee Tannehill,Chi. Drake (LF)-Bush (SB)-Gainor (1B)
Apr 16, 1912 Matt McIntyre,Chi. O'Leary (2B)-Bush (SS)-Gainor (1B)
Aug 23, 1917 John McInnis,Phil. Bush (SS)-Young (2B)-G. Burns (1B)
Aug 14, 1919 Muddy Ruel, N.Y. Bush (SS)-Heilmann (1B)
May 18, 1921 Everett Scott, Bos. Young (2B)-Bush (SS)
Sep 14, 1921 Geo. Sisler, StL. Bush (SS)-Harris (2B)-Judge (1B)

 

Bush also hit into one triple play, against the Browns on August 31, 1919. He thus ties George Sisler as the player participating in the most triple plays as a batter and as a fielder, 10. Sisler fielded in seven and batted into three.

More than 20 players have hit into triple plays at least twice, and Ty Cobb is numbered among them. As noted above, Sisler hit into three. The all-time leader (through 1971) is Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles, who hit into four triple plays in his career, as shown below:

 

Date of Game Opponents Fielders and Positions Inn
Jun 2, 1958 vs. Wash. Bridges (SS)-Becquer (1B) 6
Sep 10, 1964 vs. Wash. Kennedy (SS)-Blasingame(2B)-Cunningham (1B)-Brumley( C ) 5
Aug 18, 1965 vs. Bos. Maizone (3B)-Mantilla (2B)-Horton (1B)-Malzone (3B) 1
Aug 6, 1967 vs. Chi. K. Boyer (3B)-Buford (2B)-McCraw (1B) 5

 

This article originally appeared in the 1972 "Baseball Research Journal."

Individual Memberships start at just $45/year

Become A Member Today

When you join SABR you are making a statement of support for baseball history. You are joining a worldwide community of people who love to read about, talk about and write about baseball.