The Unassisted Triple Play (Excerpt from “The Least Among Them”)
The Unassisted Triple Play
by Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.
This passage is an excerpt excerpt from my upcoming book The Least Among Them, which will be published by Artemesia Publishing in October 2021.
The unassisted triple play is one of the rarest occurrences in Major League Baseball and has only happened fifteen times. Interestingly, the first three times it occurred in a big league game, the Cleveland franchise (known as the Naps or the Indians) was involved.
In 1909 Neal Ball, the Cleveland shortstop, turned an unassisted triple play against the Boston Red Sox. Eleven years later, in 1920, Bill Wambsganss, the Cleveland second baseman, turned the feat against the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) in the World Series, the only time this play has occurred in the fall classic. Finally, in 1923, Red Sox first baseman George Burns turned the feat against the Cleveland Indians.
Future Yankees manager Johnny Neun (who managed the team for just 14 games) turned the first ever game-ending unassisted triple play while playing for the Detroit Tigers in 1927. Playing first base, Nuenn caught a line drive off the bat of the wonderfully named Homer Summa. That was the first out. He then promptly tagged the runner from first (Charlie Jamieson) and then trotted all the way to second base to tag that bag for the third out as the base runner there, Glenn Myatt, had taken off on the pitch and was already rounding third base.
There has been only one triple play in baseball history that involved the Yankees.
This was in a game that occurred at Yankee Stadium on May 29, 2000. In that game, the Yankees were leading 1-0 over the Oakland A’s heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The inning began well for the Yankees. Following a walk to Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams hit a long triple giving the Yankees a two-run lead. Tino Martinez was then hit by a pitch. The next batter, Jorge Posada reached base on an error that scored Williams, increasing the Yankees lead to three runs. The player making the error was the A’s second baseman Randy Velarde, a former Yankee. He would soon make amends for his error. With Martinez at second base and Posada at first, Shane Spencer came to bat. With the runners moving on the pitch, Spencer hit a line drive at Velarde. In an instant he recorded the out and tagged Posada who had almost reached second base. Velarde then took two quick steps to his right and tagged second base for the unassisted triple play, the only time this play has occurred at Yankee Stadium.
This passage is a modified excerpt from Paul Semendinger’s upcoming book The Least Among Them which will be published by Artemesia Publishing in October 2021. This wonderful book tells the tales of some of the least-known Yankees of all time and also other little-known stories about the Yankees like this one. Paul is the Editor-in-Chief of the Start Spreading The News Yankees blog. You can find Paul on Twitter @DrPaulRSem.