Jimmy Cooney (Trading Card DB)

May 30, 1927: Jimmy Cooney turns unassisted triple play as Cubs beat Pirates in 10 innings

This article was written by Bill Marston

Jimmy Cooney (Trading Card DB)Shortstop Jimmy Cooney’s rare defensive play highlighted the Chicago Cubs’ come-from-behind 10-inning, 7-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 30, 1927. The 32-year-old Cooney, known as Scoops for his outstanding fielding during a seven-season career with six major-league teams,1 turned an unassisted triple play in the fourth inning, denying the Pirates a chance to increase their early lead.

In the morning half of a Memorial Day doubleheader before a reported 26,000 fans at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Cooney snared a line drive off the bat of Paul Waner, stepped on second base to retire Waner’s younger brother Lloyd Waner, and then tagged Clyde Barnhart, running from first, to complete the seventh unassisted triple play in National League and American League history.2

Pittsburgh entered the day in first place in the NL, 3½ games ahead of the second-place Cubs. At a time when Pennsylvania law prohibited Sunday baseball, the Pirates, fresh off a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals at Forbes Field, had taken a one-day Sunday road trip to Wrigley Field on May 29. Their 8-5 win over the Cubs had extended their winning streak to 11 games. After the game the teams boarded a special train to get them from Chicago to Pittsburgh for the holiday doubleheader.3

The Pirates started 34-year-old right-hander Bullet Joe Bush, a veteran in his 16th big-league season who had started World Series games for the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees. Three days earlier, in only his second appearance of the season, Bush had earned his 193rd big-league victory with three scoreless innings in relief against the Cardinals and a game-winning single in the 10th inning. His only other outing, a month earlier, was a start against the Cubs. In that game, he was replaced with no outs in the second inning and was charged with six runs.

This time out, Bush retired only two batters as the Cubs scored three runs on five hits in the top of the first.4 Cooney singled to left field with one out. After a wild pitch, four of the next five batters recorded hits, including RBI singles by Earl Webb, Charlie Grimm, and Gabby Hartnett. With the Pirates down 3-0, Bush was replaced by 29-year-old Chet Nichols, making just his third appearance of the season and the sixth of his career. He got the third out with no further damage.

Chicago sent Tony Kaufmann to the mound. The 26-year-old right-hander had a record of 2-3. He was in his seventh season, all with the Cubs. He was coming off four productive seasons, including a 9-7 record with a 3.02 ERA in 1926.

Kaufmann also had a rough start. In the bottom of the first, he gave up singles to the first two batters, Lloyd Waner and Barnhart. Barnhart was replacing regular left fielder Kiki Cuyler,5 who was in the hospital with an injured foot.6

Paul Waner, the major-league leader in triples as a rookie in 1926 with 22, drove in Lloyd Waner and Barnhart with a triple to left-center field, his eighth of the season.7 Wright then knocked in Waner with a single to right, tying the score, 3-3.

The fifth consecutive Pirates batter reached when George Grantham was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up on Pie Traynor’s sacrifice. A sacrifice fly by Joe Harris scored Wright, and Grantham also crossed the plate when Cubs right fielder Webb made an errant throw home. The wild first inning ended with the Pirates leading, 5-3.

The Cubs began to rally against Nichols in the third. A walk and a wild pitch put Grimm in scoring position, and Hartnett came through again with his second two-out RBI single, cutting the lead to one run.

Kaufmann was in and out of trouble each inning. In the second, singles by Lloyd and Paul Waner put runners on the corners, but Wright flied out to end the inning. In the third, a pair of singles gave the Pirates a scoring opportunity with one out. A popout and strikeout kept Pittsburgh from increasing its lead.

Again, in the fourth inning, the Pirates put two runners on, this time with no outs. Lloyd Waner singled for the third time and moved to second when Barnhart walked. The Waner brothers had already combined for five hits as Paul came to the plate.

Cooney, trying to hold Lloyd Waner close at second, was moving toward second base when the runners took off on a hit-and-run. The left-handed-hitting Paul Waner scorched a line drive up the middle that according to Charles Doyle in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sounded like a “pistol shot.”8 The sure-handed shortstop9 was standing on second when he caught the ball. Barnhart wasn’t able to retreat quickly enough, and Cooney ran to tag him for the third out.10

After the play, Cubs manager Joe McCarthy ran onto the field to shake Cooney’s hand.11 Years later Cooney recalled the play, saying, “Maybe it was a hair-raiser, but I didn’t even get to celebrate. Those were Prohibition days, you know, and if you got near a bottle of beer, the club would fine you 10 bucks. That was a lot of money. I had a big dish of ice cream instead.”12

Coincidentally, two years earlier, on May 7, 1925, while playing for the Cardinals,13 Cooney had been retired for the second out when Pittsburgh’s Glenn Wright turned Jim Bottomley’s line drive into an unassisted triple play.14 When Cooney turned his own against the Pirates, he became the first player to be involved in two unassisted triple plays.15

The Cubs tied it, 5-5, the next inning. Riggs Stephenson singled to center. One out later, with Hartnett batting, Stephenson stole second. For the third time, Hartnett drove home a run with a single.

In the bottom of the fifth, Kaufmann retired the side in order for the first time, but he was back in trouble in the sixth. Harris led off with a double to short center. Relief pitcher Nichols, batting for only the sixth time in his major-league career, hit a pop fly behind first base that dropped in for an RBI double, putting the Pirates back on top, 6-5.

The Cubs answered the next inning when center fielder and cleanup hitter Hack Wilson led off with a triple. Stephenson followed with an RBI groundout, knotting the score, 6-6. Chicago threatened again in the eighth, loading the bases on a single and two walks, but Nichols retired Wilson on a fly ball to deep center and the score remained tied.

Pittsburgh also had a scoring opportunity in the eighth on two singles, including Lloyd Waner’s fourth hit of the game. With two outs and runners on the corners, Barnhart grounded out.

Each team had a hit in the ninth but couldn’t score, and the game went to extra innings. Kaufmann, who had given up 14 hits but surrendered only one run after the first inning, singled to left field. Sparky Adams tried to advance the runner but bunted back to Nichols, who forced Kaufmann at second. Cooney walked, moving Adams into scoring position. Webb’s grounder to second forced Cooney as Adams moved to third with two outs. Wilson drove home Adams with a single to left for his third hit of the game, putting the Cubs ahead, 7-6.

Kaufmann secured Chicago’s win by retiring the Pirates in order. He ended the game with his second strikeout, this one of pinch-hitter Roy Spencer. Kaufmann evened his record, 3-3, with the 10-inning complete-game victory.

Pittsburgh took the second game of the doubleheader, 6-5, also a 10-inning game. Lloyd Waner had three more hits, totaling seven for the day. With the doubleheader split, the Pirates maintained their 3½-game lead over the Cubs.

Chicago finished the season in fourth place, 8½ games behind pennant-winning Pittsburgh. After the doubleheader, Cooney played in only three more games for the Cubs before he and Kaufmann were traded on June 7 to the Philadelphia Phillies.16 In 76 games with the Phillies, Cooney hit .270. He finished his major-league career playing in 18 games for the Boston Braves in 1928.

Four days after his win, Kaufmann pitched two scoreless innings of relief, his last appearance for the Cubs before the trade. He was 0-3 in five starts with Philadelphia and in September was sold to the Cardinals.

The Waner brothers, Paul (.380) and Lloyd (.355), had the top averages on a Pirates team that led the league in hitting with a team batting average of .305.17 Carmen Hill led the pitching staff with 22 wins. Pittsburgh finished the season with a record of 94-60, in first place, 1½ games ahead of the Cardinals, winning the pennant for the second time in three years.18 The Pirates were swept by the New York Yankees in the World Series.

As of 2024, there have been 16 unassisted triple plays in AL/NL history.19 Six of those occurred in the 1920s.20 Cooney’s was the fifth of that decade. The sixth one took place the next day, when Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun ended the game against the Cleveland Indians with one, preserving a 1-0 Detroit win.



This article was fact-checked by Thomas E. Merrick and copy-edited by Len Levin.

Photo credit: Jimmy Cooney, Trading Card Database.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.





1 Bill Nowlin, “Jimmy Cooney,” SABR Baseball Biography Project, accessed May 6, 2024, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/jimmy-cooney/.

2 Cooney’s triple play was the seventh unassisted triple killing in AL/NL history including the Paul Hines disputed unassisted triple play on May 8, 1878. Major League Baseball does not recognize the Hines triple play as unassisted, but major-league official historian John Thorn believes the play should be counted as unassisted.

3 “Pirate-Cub Game Notes,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 30, 1927: 16.

4 Bush had one more start for the Pirates. On June 9 against the New York Giants, he gave up two hits and a walk to the first three batters and was removed. The next week he was released. He was signed by the Giants at the end of the month. After appearing in three games for New York he was released again.

5 Charles Doyle, “Triple Play, Unassisted, by Cooney Is Hair-Raiser,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 31, 1927: 11.

6 Chilly Doyle, “Chillysauce,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 31, 1927: 11. The injury had ended Cuyler’s streak of consecutive games played at 344.

7 Paul Waner went on to lead the NL with 18 triples in 1927. His 191 career triples rank 10th in NL/AL history as of 2024.

8 Doyle, “Triple Play, Unassisted, by Cooney Is Hair-Raiser.”

9 Chilly Doyle, “Chillysauce.” Doyle wrote that Cooney had “no superiors and few equals.” In 1927 his fielding percentage at shortstop was .978, leading AL/NL shortstops for the second consecutive season.

10 Irving Vaughan, “Cubs Stop Pirates’ Winning Streak, 7-6; Then Lose, 6-5,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1927: 23.

11 Joseph Lawler, “Jimmy Cooney in Two Unassisted Triple Plays,” https://sabr.org/journal/article/jimmy-cooney-in-two-unaided-triple-plays/, SABR Baseball Research Journal, 1984, accessed December 29, 2023.

12 Carl Lundquist, “Twice in a Row it Was Three Men at a Clip,” Sports Illustrated, May 29, 1967: 97.

13 Cooney was traded from the Cardinals to the Cubs for Vic Keen on December 11, 1925.

14 Art McKennan witnessed both of those unassisted triple plays while operating the manual scoreboard at Forbes Field. Sixty-five years later, he saw Mickey Morandini’s unassisted triple play for the Philadelphia Phillies while working as the public-address announcer in Pittsburgh in 1992.

15 As of 2024, Cooney was still the only player to be involved in two unassisted triple plays in AL/NL history. Randy Velarde turned an unassisted triple play on May 29, 2000. He had turned one previously in a spring-training game in 1995. Umpire Barry McCormick, who made the out calls for Cooney’s play, is the only umpire to have made the out calls for two unassisted triple plays. He also recorded the outs for Ernie Padgett’s unassisted triple play on October 6, 1923.

16 Cooney and Kaufmann were traded to the Phillies for Hal Carlson.

17 Paul Waner led the NL in hits, batting average, and RBIs, and was the NL MVP. Lloyd Waner finished third in batting and tied for the NL lead in runs. He finished sixth in the NL MVP voting.

18 In 1925 the Pirates defeated the Washington Senators in the World Series in seven games.

19 The total of 16 includes the Hines triple play. (See Note 1.)

20 The other five in the ’20s were turned by Bill Wambsganss in Game Five of the 1920 World Series, George Burns on September 14, 1923, Ernie Padgett on October 6, 1923, Glenn Wright on May 7, 1925, and Johnny Neun on May 31, 1927.

Additional Stats

Chicago Cubs 7
Pittsburgh Pirates 6
Game 1, DH

Forbes Field
Pittsburgh, PA


Box Score + PBP:

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1920s ·