The Unassisted Triple Play and Catchers
An unassisted triple play is one of the rarest events in all of baseball.
It involves a single player collecting all three outs all by himself without ever letting go of the ball.
Triple Plays in the Big Leagues
"Regular" triple plays in baseball are rare enough.
As of the publication date, there have been just 727 instances of a triple play occurring in professional baseball since 1876, according to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
That's an average of just about five triple plays per big league season!
Unassisted triple plays on the other hand are incredibly more rare than a normal triple play.
In fact, unassisted triple plays are more rare than perfect games.
Don't believe me?
There have been only 15 unassisted triple plays in MLB history, compared with 23 perfect games.
The last MLB unassisted triple play occurred in 2009, when Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Eric Bruntlett turned it.
Interestingly, all unassisted triple plays that have occurred in the history of the major leagues have been accomplished by an infielder.
Specifically, eight shortstops (53.3% of total), five second baseman (33.3% of total) and two first baseman (13.3% of total) are responsible for the 15 MLB unassisted triple plays.
But what about catchers? Has a catcher ever turned an unassisted triple play?
No, not in the big leagues (not yet anyway). But it has occurred before in organized ball.
The Two Recorded Unassisted Triple Plays by a Catcher
Play # 1 - April 19, 1975
The first unassisted triple play made by a catcher (that we are aware of) happened on April 19, 1975.
It took place during a Division 1 college baseball game between Yale and Harvard, and the game at Harvard. As reported by The Harvard Crimson paper, it was the sixth inning with runners on third and first and no one out.
The Yale batter laid down a squeeze bunt that dropped on home with a slight roll backwards. Harvard's catcher, named Bill Cote, grabbed the ball and tagged the runner who was sprinting home from third (out #1).
Surprisingly, the umpire called him out.
Evidently the Yale batter and runner on third thought the ball was foul, so they didn't move. Cote saw what was happening and ran to first, where he stepped on the base (out #2) and also tagged out the runner who was still standing near first (out #3).
Just like that, there were three outs and Cote was responsible for all of them.
Play #2 - April 27, 1976
The date was April 27, 1976 and the location was Agawam Ball Park near Springfield, Massachusetts. It was a high school baseball game between the Agawam High Brownies and the Ludlow High Lions.
According to the Springfield, MA Daily News account of the play, there was a runner on second and third when a Ludlow batter tried to lay down a squeeze bunt.
However, the squeeze didn't go according to plan. The bunt popped up weakly and Agawam High's catcher, Brian Rheault, caught it (out #1).
Ludlow's runner that was on third had already committed to home, as is the case on a suicide squeeze play. Rheault tagged him out (out #2).
The runner that was on second then tried to make it to third base, since Agawam's third baseman had charged in on the play.
As there was no one covering the bag, Rheault ran to third and tagged the runner out just before the runner made it to the base (out #3).
According to the sources I've found, these two plays remain the only known unassisted triple plays ever made by a catcher in organized baseball, from the high school level on up.
These plays sound incredibly cool and leaves me wishing there were videos of them, somewhere, as unlikely as that is.
My only hope is that it will one day happen on a bigger stage, and captured on film.
Who knows? Maybe a catcher can one day become the MLB's 16th player to turn an unassisted triple play!
Thanks for Reading
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- Springfield Daily News
- The Harvard Crimson
- Chuck Rosciam