Analyzing Coverage of the Hines Triple Play

This article was written by Brian Marshall

This article was published in Spring 2016 Baseball Research Journal

In 1878 a triple play by Providence’s Paul Hines didn’t attract any extraordinary attention other than the excitement of a triple play that saved the day for Providence. The Hines play gained notoriety in baseball folklore when it was labeled by some as the first unassisted triple play in National League history. The rules of the time, recorded stats, and likely events of the game itself are detailed by Richard Hershberger elsewhere in this journal. I began my own analysis by comparing and reviewing prominent articles about the play and discovered troubling discrepancies in the later accounts which fatally undermine their credibility.

Not surprisingly, the Providence newspapers had the most detailed coverage of the game. The following comes from the Providence Morning Star dated Thursday Morning, May 9, 1878.

The score now stood Providence 3, Bostons 0. O’Rourke got his base on called balls. Manning sent a little grounder between first and second, which Sweasy hastily picked up and threw wild over Murnan’s head, O’Rourke scoring on this unfortunate error and Manning taking third. Sutton got first on a muffed ball by Murnan. Burdock then struck what everybody considered was a clean base hit, about two rods back of short stop’s position, the men on bases having confidence enough to come home. Here a phenomenal and surprising play was made; Hines made a difficult and brilliant running catch of the ball, putting out the striker; the momentum acquired carried him near to third base, which he stepped on, thus forcing out Manning; Sweasy then signalled for the ball, which Hines threw to him, putting out Sutton. This triple play, saving two and perhaps more runs, created tempestuous enthusiasm, the crowd rising en masse, cheering and waving hats.[fn]“After That Pennant: Providence, 3; Boston, 2: Hines Saves Us By a Triple Play,” Providence Morning Star, Thursday Morning, May 9, 1878, 1.[/fn]

Word for word the same coverage is found in the Providence Evening Press dated Thursday Evening, May 9, 1878.[fn]“After That Pennant: Providence, 3; Bostons, 2: Hines Saves Us By a Triple Play,” Providence Evening Press, Thursday Evening, May 9, 1878, 1.[/fn] The Providence Journal — as published in the New York Clipper — reported the game as follows:

O’Rourke obtained his first on called balls. Manning batted a slowly rolling grounder between first and second bases, which Sweasy picked up and hastily tossed to Murnan. It was tossed over his head, and O’Rourke ran like a deer around the bases and scored a run while Manning succeeded in reaching third — a most distressing error to the Providence spectators. Murnan muffed Sutton’s fly, and then Burdock struck the ball, lifting it over Carey’s head sufficiently far to warrant the base runners, and even the anxious crowd, in prophesying that it was a base hit, Manning and Sutton speeded to the home plate, while fear and trembling possessed the hearts of the breathless spectators. But Hines, meantime, had espied the ball, and running at the top of his speed from far centrefield, captured it ere it touched the ground, ceased not his running until he had touched third, thus, unassisted, putting out both Burdock and Manning, and threw swiftly to Sweasy, retiring Sutton, and completing a brilliant triple play, amid the wildest shouts and demonstrations of delight imaginable.[fn]“Baseball: That Triple Play,” New York Clipper, March 23, 1901, 80.[/fn]

Boston newspapers tended to be not as detailed. The Boston Evening Transcript dated Thursday Morning, May 9, 1878 published:

In the eighth inning there was great excitement, when, through errors of the Providence club, O’Rourke scored and Manning and Sutton were on bases. Burdock struck a fly — just beyond Carey — which Hines caught after a long run, ran to third base and put out Manning and threw to second, putting out Sutton and making a triple play.[fn]“Base Ball,” Boston Evening Transcript, Thursday Evening, May 9, 1878, 5.[/fn]

The Boston Herald — as published in The New York Clipper read:

The game was a very exciting one, particularly in the eighth inning, when by errors of Providence alone O’Rourke scored and Manning and Sutton were on bases. Burdock struck a fly just back of short stop, which Hines seized after a long run, ran to third, put out Manning, and then threw to second in time to put out Sutton, making a triple play amid the utmost excitement.[fn]“Baseball: That Triple Play,” New York Clipper, March 23, 1901, 80.[/fn]

The New York Clipper itself ran the following:

In the eighth inning O’Rourke made the first run for the visitors off errors, leaving Manning and Sutton on bases. Burdock’s fly back of short was captured by Hines after a sharp run, he putting out Manning at third, and throwing to second in time to put out Sutton.[fn]“Baseball: Boston vs Providence,” New York Clipper, May 18, 1878, 59.[/fn]

Nineteen months later, the triple play gained attention via a secondary mention, in a December 1879 biographical sidebar about Paul Hines in the New York Clipper:

As an outfielder he has but few if any equals, and the wonderful and brilliant running-catches made by him are too numerous to mention in detail, and we can only cite the following instance, culled at random: In the Providence-Boston game, at Providence, R. I., on May 8, 1878, the Bostons wanted one [sic] run to tie the score, and had men on the third and second bases, with none out, and Burdock at the bat. He made a seemingly safe hit just over short-stop’s head, which was captured on the fly close to the ground by Hines, after running at terrific speed for more than fifty yards, and, keeping straight on, he touched third base and threw the ball to second before the respective occupants could return, thus making one of the most brilliant of the few triple-plays yet chronicled.[fn]“Paul A. Hines, Centre-fielder,” New York Clipper, December 6, 1879, 293.[/fn]

This article was the first mention of the Boston runners being on second and third at the time of Burdock’s hit. According to the Clipper, the trailing runner (whom we know to be Ezra Sutton) was at second, not first.

Almost a decade later, in fall 1888, chronicler Tim Murnane, who had played in that Boston-Providence game, alluded to the play being unassisted, and by spring 1889 Hines himself was making the claim. Sutton disputed Hines in a Clipper article dated June 29, 1889:

It is now a question of veracity between Paul Hines and Ezra Sutton as to whether the former is to be credited with making a triple play unassisted. Hines claims that in a game between the Boston and Providence teams, May 8, 1878, in Providence, he accomplished the feat. Manning and Sutton were on third and second bases respectively in this game, when Burdock hit an apparently safe fly ball, but Hines, after a desperate run, caught the ball, and continued on to third, which he touched, and now he claims that as Manning and Sutton had both passed that base, he should be credited with making a triple unassisted. Hines says he can prove the feat by everyone present at the game. As Sutton was one of the base runners, we will give his version as follows: “Hines is wrong; for at the time I had not reached third base, as he claims, but was fully twenty feet away from that point when the ball was caught.” Thus by touching third base Hines only made a double play, but by throwing the ball to Sweasy at second base, he completed a triple play, and this and Sutton’s statement agree exactly with the account of the game as it appears in the files of THE CLIPPER.[fn]“Baseball: Stray Sparks From The Diamond,” New York Clipper, June 29, 1889, 261.[/fn]

A Clipper article dated March 23, 1901, took issue with Murnane’s assertion as well:

This stood unimpeached until the Fall of 1888, when Tim Murnan made the astonishing assertion that the records were all wrong and that Hines completed the triple play alone. It is singular that he should have waited so long before making such an absurd statement.[fn]“Baseball: That Triple Play,” New York Clipper, March 23, 1901, 80.[/fn]

The 1901 article also quoted Alfred H. Wright, who wrote the 1879 Hines bio sidebar in the Clipper:

It was Hines who told me about him running at terrific speed for more than fifty yards, he seeming particularly anxious about having the distance specified.” Then why did not Hines also tell Mr. Wright that he had completed the play unassisted and have it inserted in his sketch, so it would have been an undisputed fact, and not have waited until he had been coached by Murnan [sic] in the Spring of 1889 before making the claim to that performance?[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Two months later The Sporting News published an article entitled “That Fake Triple Play” on the subject, quoting numerous players:

Jim O’Rourke, the Boston center fielder:

It is with pleasure I give you my recollections of this phenomenal catch by Paul Hines. I won’t attempt in language to particularly describe the impressions made upon us by this catch. Its effect was electric. You can imagine enough. Why, the circumstances of that catch are as fresh in my mind today as if it happened but yesterday. I can picture Hines coming down the little slope from center field toward third base like a deer, reaching at full length, catching the ball within an inch of the ground, and not stopping until he landed on third base, from which he returned the ball to second base, thereby completing a triple play, the brilliancy of which I never since recalled. My dear friend, Tim Murnan, must be under a misapprehension when he says Hines completed the triple play unassisted.[fn]“That Fake Triple Play: Players Who Were in the Game Say Sweasy Helped Hines,” The Sporting News, Volume 31, Number 8, May 4, 1901, 7.[/fn]

Charlie Sweasy:

In answer to your query I would state that I assisted Hines in making the triple play mentioned, viz.: The ball was struck by Burdock to short left field. Hines started for it on the dead run, and succeeded in catching it, but nearly stumbled. Regaining his feet he kept on running to third base, reaching it before Manning succeeded in returning, thereby putting Manning out. Sutton, who had reached third base, seeing Hines coming with the ball, started back to second base. Hines, after touching third base, started to catch Sutton, but Sutton, being a good swift runner as well as Hines, he saw that could not catch him and threw the ball to me at second base in time to put Sutton out. This is my recollection of the play.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Sweasy’s comments imply Ezra Sutton was likely on first base, rather than second, if Sutton had only reached the area of third shortly before Hines. If Hines ran about fifty yards to make the catch and then traveled to third, and with thirty yards between bases, Hines and Sutton traveled about the same distance. Therefore a sprinting Sutton would have gone first to third. Had he been on second base, it is highly probable he would have rounded third base before Hines’s arrival.

Tommy Bond, the Boston pitcher, provided a short response saying that the events of the triple play were as stated in the Providence Journal. Bond’s short comment was followed by Sutton’s:

Would say to reply that my letter published in the Clipper in June 1889 in reference to the triple play is correct in every detail. I reproduce it here: “I notice that Paul Hines, in writing the Boston Globe, says; ‘Sutton was near the home plate when I touched third base, putting out both Manning and Sutton, and completing a triple play.’ Hines is wrong, for at the time I had not reached third base, as he claims, but was fully twenty feet away from that point when the ball was caught. Hines touched third base, putting out Manning, and then threw the ball to Sweasy at second base, putting me out. The two men made the triple play.

Jack Manning, the Boston right fielder, added:

As I remember the triple play you refer to, it happened just as the papers stated at the time. With two men on base, one on second and the other on third, Burdock hit a fly over the shortstop’s head, which everybody thought was safe, and both men started for home. Hines, after a hard run, caught the ball close to the ground and kept on running to third base, putting out the man who had occupied that base before he could return. He [Hines] started for Sutton, who was trying to get back to second base, when somebody shouted to him to throw the ball and he threw to Sweasy, who was playing second base at the time, thereby completing the triple play, which was a dandy, giving Hines two put outs and an assist.

Last was Doug Allison, the Providence catcher:”All I can say is Hines put out only two men unassisted and threw the ball to Sweasy at second base, this getting an assist.”

The following year, the New York Times published an article when Harry O’Hagan managed an unassisted triple play that included a statement from Sweasy:

Charles J. Sweasy, who covered second base for the Providence team during the game, made a statement showing conclusively that Hines did not make the play unassisted, Sweasy said:

I assisted Hines in making the triple play mentioned so largely in the public prints. The ball was struck by Burdock to short left field. Hines started for it on a dead run, and succeeded in catching it, but nearly stumbled. Regaining his feet, however, he kept on running to third base, reaching that station before Manning could return, thereby putting Manning out.
Sutton, who had reached third, seeing Hines coming with the ball, started back to second. Hines touched third and started to catch Sutton, but, Sutton being a good sprinter, Hines saw that he could not catch him, and threw the ball to me at second base in time to catch Sutton before he reached it.

This statement of Second Baseman Sweasy, who assisted in the play, disposes of Hines’s [sic] claim to have accomplished a triple play unassisted.[fn]“The Greatest Play Ever Made In Baseball: How O’Hagan Put Out Three Men Unassisted on Monday Last,” The New York Times, Sunday, August 24, 1902, 23.[/fn]

Sweasy’s comments in that 1902 Times article effectively replicate his previous comments in The Sporting News.

By then Tim Murnane was President of the New England League and edited the first guide of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, published by Spalding. The guide included not only not only the stats, rules, schedules, and a catalog of Spalding sporting products section, but a few sections of general interest, one of which was titled “Hines’ Great Triple Play.”[fn]T. H. Murnane, Editor. “Hines’ Great Triple Play,” in Official Guide of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Leagues for Season of 1902. New York, NY: A. G. Spalding & Bros., 1902, 53–56.[/fn] Three players involved in the game, George Wright, Jack (John) Manning, and Murnane himself, were quoted. The article opens, “On June 8, 1878, at Providence, R. I., Paul Hines accomplished a triple play unaided.” Of course, what Murnane meant to say was May, not June.

George Wright, who was the captain of the Boston club, said:

I was coaching back of third base at the time. The score was 2 to 1 in favor of Providence, and I was anxious to get in two runs, as it practically meant the game. Burdock hit the ball and my whole attention was turned to the runner coming from second, as it looked like a perfectly safe drive. As the runner came to third I coached him home, never dreaming of a catch. When I saw that Hines had actually reached the ball and was still running towards me I commenced to realize that both men were out. As Manning never looked to the right or left, but was headed for home until the boys stood up and waved him back, it was too late, and I remember as if it was but yesterday how Hines ran up and stood on third base with the ball still in his hand, completing a triple play.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Wright’s comments are riddled with inaccuracies. The score was 3–0 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, not 2–1, and became 3–1 once Jim O’Rourke scored. The second issue is twofold: a) a runner on second base and b) the implication of it being Manning on second base. It was impossible for the runner on second base to be Manning given Boston’s batting order. And Wright’s account of Hines standing on third base holding the ball contravenes all the many descriptions of the throw to Sweasy.

The next player to comment was Jack (John) Manning:

I was taking a big lead off second base. As Sutton was on third, I felt sure that my run would win the game. When Burdock hit a low liner to the left of second I took my cue from the coacher at third and turned for home, figuring that I must beat out a throw. I was over half way home when I noticed the Boston players on the bench jumping about and yelling for me to go back. There was a mix-up. Hines was standing on third base with the ball, while his own players were yelling for him to throw it to second.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

Again, Manning could not have been on second base while Sutton was on third since Sutton batted after him. A second matter is the description of Burdock’s hit being a “low liner.” A low liner to the left of second base would not have allowed Hines enough time to run under it to catch it, and contradicts accounts that described the hit as “over the head” of the short stop. The other critical point about the Manning comments is that they were night and day different in every regard — who was on second, who was on third, the type of hit that Burdock made, and where the runners were when Hines reached third — from his comments in The Sporting News.

Lastly, Tim Murnane:

The writer was playing first base in that game for Providence, and was in a perfect place to see the play and here is how he saw it: With Sutton on third, Manning at second and Burdock at the bat. Hines made a move to play a deep field, and then edged in, as Burdock was placing the ball very cleverly at the time, and a safe hit meant mischief to Providence, as there was no one out and the score was 2 to 1, with the game about over. Thinking that Hines was well out, Burdock chopped one to short left center that looked like a 50 to 1 shot, and away went Sutton and Manning. At third base George Wright, with cap in hand, waved Manning in. When the ball was hit Hines was under a full head of steam like a flash, and being a remarkably quick starter he saw there was a dying chance to save the day. It was a bit down grade from center field where he was playing, the ground bare of grass and quite hard. The players speed was unusually fast. With a long reach the ball was taken six inches from the ground about fifteen yards back of second base, five yards to the left of the base. This angle headed Hines towards third base, and never fully regaining his feet until he struck the base line, while keeping his eye on the runners, he ran down the line with the ball raised to throw, and Hague was standing at third for the ball but finding that both of the runners were close to the home plate he jogged to the base and stood there fully fifteen seconds while the crowd howled like mad and the players were lost in the excitement. As Hines stood at third Sweasy was at second calling for the ball, wanting to make sure thing of it, as Manning had started back, Hines walked down the baseline about five yards and tossed the ball to Sweasy, who called for an out at second, wholly unnecessary, but yet in a way to mystify the scorers of that time, and the result was that the play was never accurately reported.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

The Murnane article is a wonder because all three of the players made two identical errors — reporting the score as 2–1, that Sutton was on third and Manning at second — easily disproved by a glance at the boxscore. It was as if they had agreed to report in a coordinated fashion yet the three of them didn’t even have the basic facts straight. In the final paragraph Murnane states, “I have taken a great deal of time and trouble to see that justice has been done Mr. Hines.”

In 1915 George Wright again presented his version of the play, this time in Sporting Life:

I was on the Boston team at the time and we came down to Providence to play. At the time the triple play was made by Hines there were Boston men on second and third bases. The batter hit a Texas Leaguer and it was obvious to the coacher on third base that it was going over the head of the shortstop. Consequently the coach signaled wildly for the two runners to go home. Hines came in with a burst of speed from center field, made a remarkable scooping catch of the ball just as it was about to touch the ground, and ran all the way to third base. The man on third was home and the man who had been on second had crossed third and was nearly half way home. So by touching the third bag Hines forced out two. The coacher on third was dumbfounded. He never thought for a second that Hines would try for the play, in fact he did not realize what happened until it was all over. I know — because I was the coacher on third.[fn]“A Real Old-Timers Talk of Early Days: The First Unassisted Triple Play,” Sporting Life, Volume 12, Number 20, November 20, 1915, 6.[/fn]

Interestingly Wright did not mention the score at the time nor the names of the runners. One can only speculate he had become aware of the errors he made in the Murnane article.

The Hines triple play was also recounted in Baseball Magazine in 1913.[fn]“The Most Sensational Play in Baseball: How Neal Ball Became Famous in Day—A Greater Feat by an Old-Time Star—Paul Hines and His Wonderful Triple Play of 1878,” Baseball Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6, October 1913, 69–72.[/fn] Smith D. Fry was writing in Washington and therefore consulted baseball people from the Washington, DC area, including Paul Hines himself, as well as Nick Young, Charlie Snyder, Doug Allison, and umpire Charlie Daniels. Fry also mentions Senator Nelson W. Aldrich who actually saw the game and was a resident of Washington at the time the article was being researched.

The first person Fry consulted was “Uncle Nick Young” who was Secretary of the National League at the time the play was made. “Everybody in the baseball world knew that Hines made that triple play unassisted,” Young declared. “No baseball authority ever denied it.” Although Young was a resident of Washington and his prominent history with the league should have lent credibility to his words, it appears that Young did not actually witness the play.

Fry spoke with both catchers from the game, Doug Allison for Providence and Pop Synder for Boston. “I certainly saw Paul Hines make his great triple play, unassisted,” said Snyder.

Paul Hines swept like a whirlwind from deep center into short left field, and he caught that ball. I should say about knee high or lower. The ball was going like a rifle shot, but Paul gripped it, held it as one man out of a thousand could have done, and ran on to third base. Both of our runners had gone past third base and were congratulating themselves on having made runs. It was a triple play, unassisted, and was so declared by the umpire.

The most glaring aspect about Snyder’s comments has to do with position of the base runners at the time when Burdock came to bat and the fact that the base runner on first made it all the way around to score, meaning he covered two hundred and seventy feet. It simply isn’t probable that a base runner would cover ninety yards in the same time that it took Hines to cover some sixty yards or so to reach third base. That would imply that the base runner, not running in a straight line and having to touch second and third bases, was able to cover a third more distance than Hines, who was running in a relatively straight line, in the same amount of time.

Doug Allison provided the following:

Yes, I was catcher for the Providence Grays that year. I was behind the bat when Burdock came to the plate. Boston’s second baseman, Sutton, made a single to begin the inning. Then Manning, who was Boston’s pitcher and also center fielder, was the next batter, and he also made a single. That put Sutton on second and Manning on first. Burdock was a dangerous batter. When he came up I signaled Paul to get out into deep field for him, and he did so. But I noticed that Paul was shifting toward left, guessing the batter well. Well, Burdock hit the second ball that was pitched, and he smashed it out into left field. It looked to like a sure enough home run, clearing the bases. But as I saw Burdock rushing around the paths I also saw Paul Hines come tearing in from deep center to short left. He speared it about knee high in short left, back of third. He stumbled and almost fell, but kept on running and veering around, he kept on until he reached third base. There he halted and held up the ball. We only had one umpire in those days, and Charley Daniels, one of the best, was umpiring that day. He saw what Paul was up to, ran out toward him, and was not more than ten feet away when Paul perched on third base with the ball aloft in his hand. Daniels called out his decision: ‘Three out, Side out.’ And that crowd went wild.

Then, as I remember it, Carey, our shortstop, took the ball and threw it to Sweeney [sic], our second baseman, and he touched second base as they both shouted to the crowd: “Just for good measure.”

Allison has Sutton batting before Manning and also stated the umpire was Charlie Daniels when it wasn’t, it was John A. Cross. Lastly Allison mentioned “Carey, our shortstop, took the ball and threw it to Sweeney” which contradicts his own comments in The Sporting News. The mention of Carey was a first, and was the mention of “Sweeney” simply a slip from “Sweasy?” Paul Hines himself said:

“It was at Providence, Rhode Island, May 15 [sic], 1878. I knew that Burdock was a dangerous batter. I knew also that he was inclined to pull ’em [sic] out into left field. Believing that any long knock into left field would be gathered in by our left fielder, I figured that Burdock might knock one into the field too short for the left fielder and too far out for either the third baseman or the shortstop. While I was guessing the batter and moving toward left field (as ‘Doug’ Allison told you he saw me), Burdock got his hit. I was on the move in a dog trot while our pitcher, Corey, was winding up. When ball and bat cracked I was under way instantly; and instantly I saw where the ball was going. I barely got there in time to grip the ball somewhere between my knee and ankle. It was so near my ankle that I almost fell and broke my neck. Although I came near falling, I managed to keep my balance by keeping up the momentum until I could swerve about toward third base. As soon as stepped on the base I held up the ball. Umpire Charley Daniels was quite near. The umpire called so that he could be heard all over the field; ‘Three out, Side out.’ Somebody motioned me to go to second base. You know, my hearing is deficient, and I depended largely on signs in those days. Well, I ran down and touched second. Then Carey, our shortstop, and Sweeney, our second baseman, took the ball, and danced around with it, cutting up monkey shines.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]

The Hines recollection was vastly different than that presented in the New York Clipper dated December 6, 1879.[fn]“Paul A. Hines, Centre-fielder,” New York Clipper, December 6, 1879, 293.[/fn] Hines mentioned Charlie Daniels as the umpire, Carey, and Sweeney as the second baseman as Allison had done, implying there was a degree of collusion in their recollections.

How about Charlie Daniels, the apparent umpire according to Hines and Allison? He told Fry:

Well, well, well, so they are still trying to deny dear old Paul that famous triple play unassisted. I was the umpire on that occasion and was connected with the National League, and the American Association many years afterward, and in active association with the game between twenty-five and thirty years; most of the time I was umpiring. On the occasion of the famous play by Paul Hines, Ezra Sutton was on second base and someone else was on first base. Burdock, at the bat, hit a fly which travelled rainbow fashion to left field. There was a light wind blowing, and carrying the ball a little toward second base, but back of it. When the second baseman saw Paul tearing in after the ball, he wisely got out of the way.

Sutton made home, from second base, and the other man was near the home plate, when Hines caught the ball about a foot from the ground, almost turned a somersault, and rushed to third base, where he stood and held up the ball. Of course I did my duty then and made the decision; “Three out. Side out.”

According to the published boxscores for the May 8, 1878, game the umpire was John A. Cross. Retrosheet lists what individual games each man umpired during a given season. Cross is listed as having umpired the May 8, 1878, game while Daniels is not.[fn]Retrosheet Web Page: Umpire John Cross, 1878. Accessed March 15, 2016:[/fn], [fn]Retrosheet Web Page: Umpire Charles F. Daniels, 1878. Accessed March 15, 2016:[/fn] I am at a loss to explain why Daniels would claim credit for being the umpire in a game for which he was not.

The final paragraph of the Baseball Magazine article states: “These statements of fact, told without rhetorical effort or other display, but merely with historic intent, should settle for all time the right of Paul Hines to the fame of making the first and greatest triple play, unassisted, ever made in the national game. Every true sportsman likes to give ‘honor to whom honor is due.’”[fn]“The Most Sensational Play in Baseball: How Neal Ball Became Famous in Day—A Greater Feat by an Old-Time Star—Paul Hines and His Wonderful Triple Play of 1878,” Baseball Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6, October 1913, 69–72.[/fn]

Knowing that the article is filled with contradictory and incorrect statements, coupled with apparent collusion much like the Murnane article of 1902, one cannot take the final paragraph at face value. According to Murnane, his article of 1902 was supposed to settle for all time that Paul Hines made the first “unassisted” triple play in in National League history. To Mr. Fry and Mr. Murnane, I say, “So gentlemen, which is it? Who has the true story?” It’s a rhetorical question because the answer is neither of them. Why, because the play wasn’t unassisted at all; it was assisted and both Murnane and Fry, who tried to use the players, and others, as a means to gain perceived credibility, in a coordinated effort to make their story appear factual in the eyes of the baseball community. In the end both Fry and Murnane not only stumbled over themselves but lost any credibility they might have gained from using the players, and others, to begin with. After analyzing all the information to write this paper it is evident to this writer that the triple play from the game played on May 8, 1878, involving Paul Hines, was an assisted triple play and not an unassisted triple play.

BRIAN MARSHALL is an Electrical Engineering Technologist living in Barrie, Ontario, Canada and a long time researcher in various fields including entomology, power electronic engineering, NFL, Canadian Football and recently MLB. Brian has written many articles, winning awards for two of them. He has two baseball books on the way on the 1927 New York Yankees and the 1897 Baltimore Orioles. Brian is a long time member of the PFRA. While growing up, Brian played many sports. He aspired to be a professional football player but when that didn’t materialize he focused on Rugby Union and played off and on for 17 seasons.


Author’s Note

Team names and the spelling of player names, not from quoted material, was based on that as listed on


Additional References

Kathy Torres, “Three in One?” in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (Phoenix, AZ: Society for American Baseball Research, Inc., 2013.) 108–09.

John Thorn. “Paul Hines and the Unassisted Triple Play,” Blogs, Our Game, posted May 5, 2015.