First Unassisted Triple Play, 1878

In baseball, there are many great plays that can be made. For example, the "over the fence catch" is one of the most exciting plays in the outfield. Another thriller is the double play, displaying great chemistry and a quick-reaction from the players which leaves the fans in awe. To step that up a notch, there is also the elusive triple play which is a rare feat in baseball. However, none of these plays can top the difficulty and the scarcity of the unassisted triple play. Let's take a look into baseball history for the first instance of this rare event.

The first unassisted triple play in Big League history took place on May 8, 1878, when the Providence Grays battled the Boston Red Caps at Rhode Island. Providence center fielder Paul Hines caught a sharp line drive from Jack Burdock, and the ball was thought to be uncatchable by runners that were at second and third. Just after the ball was caught, both runners had passed third base. Hines sprinted over to third and tagged the base, which by the rules at that time meant both runners were out.

However, the unassisted triple play did not go without controversy. Modern rules would require for either the ball to be conveyed to second base to put out the runner, or for that runner to be tagged. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, the runner coming from second had not yet touched third base, which would mean that even by 19th century rules the play was not complete until Hines threw to second, and thus the play was not unassisted. The play is still not officially recorded as the first unassisted triple play ever made, which may be a discredit to Paul Hines' feat.

According to the May 9, 1878 Boston Globe, both runners had passed third base and it was therefore an unassisted triple play: "For the Bostons O'Rourke opened by striking at air twice and taking his first on balls. Manning followed him, striking a short drive between first and second. Sweasey picked the ball and threw it wild to Murnan, allowing O'Rourke to score and Manning to reach third. Sutton got his first on an error of Murnan, and stole second. Thus matters stood, with a man on second and third, when Burdick went to strike. He hit a high fly, which was a twister, but Hines ran for it, took it on the fly at the short stop's position, putting out Burdock. Without stopping in his run Hines kept on to third, which both Manning and Sutton had passed running home on the fly, and there stopping,

Made a Triple Play

without assistance."

The Boston Red Caps lost the game, but would go on to win their second National League pennant in a row that year. The Red Caps would later move to Milwaukee and are now the Atlanta Braves. The Providence Grays won the championship in 1884, but were disbanded the following year due to declining gate attendance.

— SV

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