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Base-Clearing Triples

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BASE-CLEARING TRIPLES

A triple, which requires both power and heads-up baserunning, is one of baseball’s most exciting offensive plays. Triples are sometimes called “base-clearing triples” because whenever a batter hits one, every runner who is on base scores. Triples that are hit with the bases loaded clear all three bases. The 2006 Cardinals can thank a bases-loaded triple (by Scott Spiezio on September 30) for saving their season.

How often are triples hit with the bases loaded?

Because in modern baseball far fewer triples are hit than home runs, a bases-loaded triple is much less common than a grand slam home run. For experimental purposes I looked at the 2004 American League. The league’s 1133 games produced 2605 home runs and 404 triples. There were 70 grand slams and 11 bases-loaded triples, or one every 103 games. None of the bases-loaded triples followed an intentional walk.

2004 AMERICAN LEAGUE

April 10, Anaheim at Texas. With 2 out in the top of the 4th, with Texas leading 4-2, Anaheim’s Jose Molina tripled off Kenny Rogers. Anaheim lost 12-6.

June 15, Detroit at Philadelphia. With 2 out in the top of the 7th, with Detroit leading 5-1, Detroit’s Carlos Guillen tripled off Geoff Geary. Detroit won 10-3.

June 22, Seattle at Texas. With 1 out in the bottom of the 6th, with Texas leading 5-1, Texas’s Michael Young tripled off J.J. Putz. Texas won 10-2.

June 24, Seattle at Texas. With 2 out in the top of the 2nd, with the score tied 1-1, Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki tripled off Joaquin Benoit. Seattle lost 9-7.

July 7, Seattle at Toronto. With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, with Toronto leading 8-4, Toronto’s Alex Rios tripled off Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Toronto won 12-4.

July 8, Seattle at Toronto. With 1 out in the bottom of the 5th, with Seattle leading 4-2, Toronto’s Josh Phelps tripled off Ryan Franklin. Toronto won 10-8.

August 24, Kansas City at Anaheim. With 2 out in the top of the 1st and no score, Kansas City’s Calvin Pickering tripled off John Lackey. Kansas City lost 7-5.

August 31, Cleveland at New York. With 1 out in the top of the 1st and no score, Cleveland’s Travis Hafner tripled off Javier Vazquez. Cleveland won 22-0.

September 12, Chicago at Anaheim. With 0 out in the bottom of the 7th, with Anaheim leading 7-0, Anaheim’s Chone Figgins tripled off Jeff Bajenaru. Anaheim won 11-0.

September 13, New York at Kansas City. With 2 out in the top of the 9th, with Kansas City leading 17-4, New York’s Ruben Sierra tripled off Chris George. New York lost 17-8.

September 28, Boston at Tampa Bay. With 2 out in the top of the 4th, with Tampa Bay leading 5-2, Boston’s Johnny Damon tripled off John Halama. Boston won 10-8.

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TRIPLES IN 1960

Here’s a look back at 1960, the last season played with 16 teams, a number that is roughly half of today’s 30 teams. In the 1236 games that were played in 1960, 2128 home runs and 658 triples were hit. There were 52 grand slam home runs and 11 bases-loaded triples, or one for every 112 games).

In each case, the tripler’s team won the game. (The most dramatic of these was certainly Gordy Coleman’s on September 4.) None of the bases-loaded triples followed an intentional walk.

1960 AMERICAN LEAGUE

April 26, Baltimore at Washington. With 2 out in the top of the 1st, with Baltimore leading 2-0, Baltimore’s Ron Hansen tripled off Don Lee. Baltimore won 11-10.

May 15, New York at Washington. With 1 out in the top of the 1st, with New York leading 1-0, New York’s Elston Howard tripled off Truman Clevenger. New York won 11-2.

August 24, Detroit at Baltimore. With 1 out in the bottom of the 2nd, with Baltimore leading 1-0, Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson tripled off Bob Bruce. Robinson scored on Rocky Colavito’s throwing error. Baltimore won 9-2.

September 8, Baltimore at Cleveland. With 2 out in the top of the 7th, with Baltimore leading 6-0, Baltimore’s Marv Breeding tripled off Johnny Klippstein. Baltimore won 9-0.

1960 NATIONAL LEAGUE

June 13, Milwaukee at San Francisco. With 2 out in the top of the 3rd, with the score tied 4-4, Milwaukee’s Johnny Logan tripled off Georges Maranda. Milwaukee won 12-5.

June 19, Pittsburgh at Los Angeles. With 1 out in the bottom of the 3rd, with the score tied 1-1, Los Angeles’s Don Demeter tripled off Bennie Daniels. Los Angeles won 8-6.

June 30, Los Angeles at Philadelphia. With 2 out in the top of the 5th, with Los Angeles leading 6-5, Los Angeles’s Maury Wills tripled off Chris Short. Los Angeles won 10-6.

July 17, Chicago at St Louis. With 2 out in the bottom of the 5th, with St Louis leading 2-0, St Louis’s Ken Boyer tripled off Don Elston. St Louis won 6-0.

September 4, Milwaukee at Cincinnati. With 1 out in the bottom of the 8th, with Milwaukee leading 5-3, Cincinnati’s Gordy Coleman tripled off Don McMahon. Cincinnati won 9-5.

September 14, Chicago at Milwaukee. With 2 out in the bottom of the 2nd, with Milwaukee leading 3-0, Milwaukee’s Henry Aaron tripled off Don Cardwell. Milwaukee won 10-2.

September 26, San Francisco at Los Angeles. With 0 out in the top of the 8th, with Los Angeles leading 2-1, San Francisco’s Don Blasingame tripled off Larry Sherry. San Francisco won 6-2.

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MILESTONES IN THE HISTORY OF THE TRIPLE

1894. As pitchers struggle to adjust to the longer pitcher distance, batters produce 1.627 triples per game, the highest in major league history. 799 games, 1300 triples, 629 home runs.

1922. The last season with more triples than games played. 1238 games, 1247 triples, 1055 home runs.

1929. The first season with more home runs than triples. 1229 games, 1168 triples, 1349 home runs.

1932. The last season with more triples than home runs. 1236 games, 1070 triples, 1069 home runs.

BASES-LOADED TRIPLES IN THE WORLD SERIES

Game 3, 1906, Chicago (A) at Chicago (N). With 2 out in the top of the 6th, with no score, the White Sox’ George Rohe tripled off Jack Pfeister to account for all the game’s runs as the White Sox won 3-0. Rohe had hit just one triple during the regular season.

Game 4, 1949, New York at Brooklyn. With 0 out in the top of the 5th, with New York leading 3-0, New York’s Bobby Brown tripled off Joe Hatten after an intentional walk to Joe DiMaggio. New York won 6-4.

Game 6, 1951, New York (N) at New York (A). With 2 out in the bottom of the 6th, with the score tied 1-1, the Yankees’ Hank Bauer tripled off Dave Koslo. The Yankees won 4-3.

Game 1, 1953, Brooklyn at New York. With 2 out in the bottom of the 1st, with New York leading 1-0, New York’s Billy Martin tripled off Carl Erskine. New York won 9-5.

Game 4, 1993, Toronto at Philadelphia. With 2 out in the bottom of the 1st, with Toronto leading 3-1, Philadelphia’s Scot Thompson tripled off Todd Stottlemyre. Philadelphia lost 15-14.

WALK-OFF BASES-LOADED TRIPLES

How many times has a bases-loaded triple won a game in the bottom of the 9th? I don’t know the answer to this, but my best guess would be “Never.” The usual scenario would be bases loaded, home team trailing by 2 runs, batter hits a long drive that stays in the park. Invariably the winning run (the runner on first) touches the plate before the batter reaches third base, so the batter’s hit is scored a double. An exception to this would be a ground-rule triple, but that is exceedingly rare.

A tip of the hat to Ross Thrasher and Dr Ignacio De Areta.

October 2006

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