Al Bumbry

September 22, 1973: Al Bumbry’s 3 triples, Tommy Davis’s 4 singles lead Orioles in AL East clincher

This article was written by Larry DeFillipo

Al BumbryTo former Los Angeles Dodgers great Tommy Davis, the American League’s adoption of the designated hitter in 1973 was a godsend. “If it wasn’t for the designated-hitter rule … I probably would be [home] in Los Angeles right now, working eight hours a day,” he told The Sporting News three months into the season.1

The year before, Davis, a two-time National League batting champion whose 153 RBIs in 1962 went unmatched for decades, was playing for his eighth major-league franchise in seven years. He hit .256 with little power for the Baltimore Orioles, then, after the season, was first demoted then disregarded in the $25,000 Triple-A draft.2 Invited to Baltimore’s 1973 spring training as a nonroster invitee, Davis, who would be 34 by Opening Day, had little chance of winning a position on the diamond, but hit well enough to make the Orioles roster as a DH.3

Platooned to start the season, Davis became the Orioles’ everyday DH by mid-May. He put together an 18-game hitting streak in the late spring and was hitting .303 as the Orioles took over first place in the AL East for good on August 15. On the strength of their three multi-season 20-game winners, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, and Dave McNally; an infield anchored by shortstop Mark Belanger and the incomparable Brooks Robinson at third; and a speed-oriented offense boasting eight players with double-digit steals (including Davis),4 the Orioles built a seven-game lead as summer turned to fall. 

Looking ahead to the playoffs as the team arrived in Milwaukee for a late September two-game series, Orioles manager Earl Weaver knew that the AL representative in a World Series would be without a DH. That meant that if Baltimore defeated the AL West champions, Davis would be relegated to pinch-hitting, unless Weaver could find a way to play him in the field.

With first baseman Boog Powell out with a shoulder injury he’d been nursing all season, and catcher-backup first baseman Earl Williams also fighting a sore shoulder, Weaver tried Davis at first in the Milwaukee series opener.5 Admittedly nervous in his first start at first base in over a year, Davis went 2-for-2 but made an error that led to two unearned runs charged to Cuellar. The Orioles prevailed nonetheless, cutting their magic number for clinching the AL East title to two.  

For the finale against 19-game-winning right-hander Jim Colborn, who’d lost his two previous starts against Baltimore, including an Opening Day rout,6 Weaver kept Davis at first, with the left-handed-hitting Al Bumbry at DH, where he’d played the night before. Bumbry had been a DH five times before the Milwaukee series, initially on Memorial Day when Weaver wanted more speed in the lineup for a game on Astroturf at Kansas City’s Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium).7

Although he was a rookie, the 26-year-old Bumbry was no greenhorn. A former second lieutenant in the US Army, he’d commanded a 45-man tank platoon through 11 months of combat in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star.8 Lackluster in one minor-league season before enlisting, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Bumbry returned to baseball matured, with “the confidence to excel on the field.”9 He worked his way up to Baltimore for a handful of games in September 1972, then earned a spot in Weaver’s outfield in spring training. The fastest Oriole Weaver had ever managed,10 Bumbry flourished in a left-field/right-field platoon with righties Don Baylor and Merv Rettenmund. Coming into the game, Bumbry was hitting a team-high .335. 

Looking to clinch at least a tie for the AL East and go 30 games over .500, Weaver sent 23-year-old Doyle Alexander to the mound. The number-four pitcher in Baltimore’s vaunted rotation, Alexander was 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA. In his last start against the Brewers, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, he’d allowed six batters in a row to reach base with one out and wasn’t given the chance to get another. Redemption was certainly on Alexander’s mind.

Just shy of 10,000 fans passed through the turnstiles at County Stadium for the Saturday afternoon contest, on a clear but windy day, with a game-time temperature of 71 degrees.11 Mired in fifth place since the Fourth of July, the Brewers and their fans were hoping to push off the Orioles’ celebration for one more day, at least.

Colborn retired Bumbry on a fly ball to center field to start the game, then allowed a one-out double to 22-year-old rookie Rich Coggins, called by some “Jeckle” to Bumbry’s “Heckle.”12 The pair’s physiques and batting stances were so similar that Bumbry’s mother mistook Coggins for her son from the front row of the stands during a Rochester game the year before.13  

Alexander gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the first to 21-year-old Brewers rookie Bob Coluccio, then picked him off.

After two scoreless innings, Bumbry ignited a Baltimore rally with a triple leading off the third. Unable to score on Coggins’ groundout to first, he waltzed home on Paul Blair’s double to left. Blair went to third on Davis’s single and scored on Baylor’s single to left. Colborn retired Robinson on a groundout and struck out Bobby Grich to keep the damage to two runs.

It didn’t take long for Milwaukee to strike back. The Brewers’ number-eight hitter, rookie Pedro Garcia, led off the bottom of the inning with his 15th home run of the season, to deep left. Mark Belanger’s one-out error on a grounder from Coluccio put the tying run on base, but John Briggs lined to Davis for an inning-ending double play.

Baltimore pushed across another run in the fourth. With one out, Bumbry drilled his second triple of the game, scoring Andy Etchebarren, who’d been sacrificed to second after opening the inning with a single. Bumbry broke for home when Coggins grounded the ball to the left side, but rookie shortstop Tim Johnson gunned him down. Coggins then swiped second but was left stranded.

Another Orioles rally in the fifth brought an end to Colborn’s day. A leadoff single by Davis and Baylor’s double prompted Brewers manager Del Crandall to bring in rookie Carlos Velazquez. Robinson, who’d singled off Velazquez the night before, smacked a two-run single to put Baltimore up 5-1.

In the sixth inning, the Orioles’ speed brought them another run. After Blair’s one-out single to center, he challenged the arm of Brewers right fielder Coluccio on a single to right by Davis. Garcia threw the ball away trying to nab Blair at third, allowing him to score on the play. Skip Lockwood, the third Milwaukee pitcher of the game, came in and kept the Orioles from doing more damage.

As Baltimore was building its lead, Alexander was cruising. He allowed single baserunners in the fourth, fifth, and sixth, but none reached scoring position. The Brewers threatened with a pair of two-out singles in the seventh until Johnson hit a comebacker for the final out.

In the Orioles eighth, Bumbry hit his third triple of the game, tying the major-league modern record for the most triples in a game. He became the 39th major leaguer to do it since 1901, and the first since Bert Campaneris of the Oakland Athletics on August 29, 1967.14 Bumbry’s three triples also tied him with two-time triples champion Rod Carew for the AL season lead. Calling himself lucky afterward, Bumbry noted how he kept getting inside pitches to hit with the Brewers outfielders shading him to the opposite field. “There was a lot of space out there in right center,” he commented.15

Unable to advance on a fly out from Coggins, Bumbry scored on Davis’s fourth single, giving Baltimore a 7-1 lead. This marked the 20th time in his career that Davis had collected four hits in a game and the second time in 10 days that he’d done it against the Brewers.

Alexander retired Milwaukee one-two-three on three groundouts in the eighth. In the ninth he allowed a pair of singles before getting Brewers DH Joe Lahoud to ground into a 4-6-3 game-ending double play.16 Thrilled with his six-hit performance, a happy Alexander told reporters, “That’s the best my ball has moved in a long time.”17

Minutes before the final out, Detroit defeated the Red Sox, meaning the Orioles had clinched the AL East title. Having now won the crown for the fourth time in five years, the Orioles began their celebration low-key. The Baltimore Sun quoted a seemingly unexcited Powell: “I’m very excited. It just takes a little while to get in the groove.”18

Before long, champagne flowed and bedlam reigned.19 A few of the Orioles’ younger players even tossed Weaver and general manager Frank Cashen into a whirlpool bath. Bumbry enjoyed some bubbly, laughed uncontrollably, then faded out. The Sun excused Bumbry’s dozing off: “He had done a lot of running during the game.”20

Baltimore third-base coach Billy Hunter put the title in perspective, saying, “It’s like having a winning lottery ticket. All this means is that you qualify for the big one.”21

The big one never came Baltimore’s way in 1973. The Orioles lost the ALCS to the defending World Series champions, the Oakland Athletics.

Tommy Davis finished the year with the highest batting average (.295) of anyone who played more than half his team’s games as a designated hitter.22 Al Bumbry won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by a wide margin,23 and finished tied with Carew for the AL triples crown. Bumbry collected another 40 triples in his major-league career, but never again hit more than one in a game.

Through the 2022 season, no designated hitter has matched Bumbry’s feat of hitting three triples in a game.24



This article was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted John McMurray’s SABR biography of Al Bumbry and Paul Hirsch and Mark Stewart’s SABR biography of Tommy Davis. The, and websites also provided pertinent material, as did the box scores noted here:



1 Lou Hatter, “Spurts by Tommy Gun Clear a Path for O’s,” The Sporting News, June 30, 1973: 10.

2 “Spurts by Tommy Gun Clear a Path for O’s.”

3 Long hobbled by a horrendous ankle injury he suffered in 1965, by 1983 Davis lacked sufficient range at first base or in the outfield to regularly contribute on defense.

4 The Orioles led the AL with 146 stolen bases in 1973, the first time they led the league in steals since 1963. The all-time major-league record for stolen bases by a team is 581, set by the 1887 American Association St. Louis Browns. Sixty-seven years later, the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles.

5 Doug Brown, “Davis ‘Nervous’ During First Trial at First,” Baltimore Sun, September 22, 1973: 8.

6 Lefty Terry Crowley faced Colborn as the Orioles’ first-ever DH on Opening Day, April 6, at Memorial Stadium.

7 Doug Brown, “43 Days Ago, McNally Had a Similar Feeling,” Baltimore Sun, May 31, 1973: D1.

8 David Vergun, “Sports Heroes Who Served: Baltimore Orioles Great Commanded a Tank Platoon in Vietnam,” March 1, 2022, US Department of Defense News website,

9 Bill Ladson, “Bumbry Was a Star for Orioles and US Army,” February 28, 2018, website,

10 Bob Addie, “Addie’s Atoms,” The Sporting News, April 28, 1973: 14.

11 Though unmentioned in newspaper accounts, winds were near 20 mph throughout the game. “September 22, 1973 Weather Conditions in Milwaukee,”, Accessed March 28, 2023,

12 Billy Martin was credited with first using the names of the popular cartoon crows when referring to the Orioles’ dynamic duo. “Ellie Howard Not All That Impressed with Sox Chances,” Boston Globe, August 5, 1973: 88.

13 Phil Jackman, “Two Peas from Different Pod,” Baltimore Evening Sun, September 27, 1973: 66.

14 Ken Nigro of the Baltimore Sun mistakenly reported the next day that the Indians’ Ben Chapman had been the last American Leaguer to collect three triples in a game. The Associated Press also mistakenly reported that Bumbry was the 32nd player to hit three triples in a game and the 14th AL player to do so; in fact, he was the 18th. Dave Brain of the 1905 Pittsburgh Pirates is the only player in the modern era to have hit three triples in a game twice. Associated Press, “Bumbry’s 3 Triples Help Orioles Clinch AL East Title,” Louisville Courier-Journal, September 23, 1973: C6; Ken Nigro, “Orioles Clinch East Flag with 7-to-1 Victory,” Baltimore Sun, September 23, 1973: B1.

15 “Orioles Clinch East Flag with 7-to-1 Victory.”

16 George Scott’s single leading off the Brewers ninth extended a personal hitting streak begun six days earlier that grew to 15 games, the longest of his career.

17 “Orioles Clinch East Flag with 7-to-1 Victory.”

18 “Orioles Celebrate Taking of Title Quietly,” Baltimore Sun, September 23, 1973: B1.

19 “Bumbry’s 3 Triples Help Orioles Clinch Al East Title.”

20 “Orioles Celebrate Taking of title Quietly.”

21 “Orioles Celebrate Taking of title Quietly.”

22 Nine American Leaguers were DH’s in more than 81 of their teams’ games in 1973. The next highest DH batting average after Davis’s was .289, by both three-time AL batting champion Tony Oliva and seven-time All-Star Orlando Cepeda, over the same number of games played (142).

23 Bumbry received 13 first-place votes, with the runner-up, the Brewers’ Pedro Garcia, getting 3.

24 Three American Leaguers have hit three triples in a game since Bumbry did. Each was playing center field at the time; Ken Landreaux of the Minnesota Twins on July 3, 1980; five-time league triples leader Lance Johnson of the Chicago White Sox on September 23, 1995; and two-time league triples leader Denard Span of the Minnesota Twins on June 29, 2010. Six National Leaguers have hit three triples in a game since Bumbry did.

Additional Stats

Baltimore Orioles 7
Milwaukee Brewers 1

County Stadium
Milwaukee, WI


Box Score + PBP:

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1970s ·