Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Triple Plays and PBRs at Dreamlake

Jennifer and I arrived early and got to spend some time on Dreamlake all by ourselves.  This is a shot of the shaded deck near the dock.
Ron, Eileen, Mark, Clint, and Jennifer at the picnic table.  You can see the lawn chairs in the distance where we sat and watched the sunset over the 8-acre (or so) open field there.  The dog seated next to Eileen is Ginger.  Lily, the oldest dog (and person) this year, can be spotted laying to the left of the table. Except for on Cumberland Island, where there are 'Dillos there are dogs. 
The cabin at Dreamlake as seen from the picnic table.  We 'Dillos have been visiting here since the early 1990's. It has undergone numerous alterations during that time.
Last weekend was the annual Cumberland Island Armadillo sojourn to Dreamlake.  The three-day affair was filled with the usual great food, drinking, swimming, relaxing, music, eclectic conversations that naturally happen whenever we get together.   

Mark was kind enough to give me an extra copy of the Atlanta Braves 50-year retrospective special program book he picked up at a recent game.  I went to a game back in April but did not happen across one of these.  It is a nice addition to the baseball section of my library.  I put it next to my 25-year special edition program.  I joked to Mark that I hope we are both still around for me to give him a copy the 75-year retrospective when it comes around in 2040.


I could blog in depth about a variety of topics discussed at any 'Dillo gathering but let's stay with baseball here.  Flipping through the 50-year program we somehow wandered off into a discussion on triple plays in baseball history.  I told Mark and Ron about the two triple plays I saw in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.  One in 1969 vs. the Cubs, the other in 1978 vs. the Phillies, when the Braves had the youngest infield players in baseball for that season.  Dale Murphy was a first base, Bob Horner at third, and Glen Hubbard was at second.  


The 1969 triple play was a complicated rundown involving a number of different players.  The 1978 triple play was a quick 5-4-3 variety.  The discussion ventured into the wider world of such plays and how frequently they occur.  (If you don't know anything about scoring baseball then some of this post will be Greek to you, sorry.  There's an overview here.)


The cabin at Dreamlake now has wi-fi, which I didn't know. So I didn't have my iPad with me. But Mark hopped online and within a few minutes (the connection is sometimes slow and erratic) found a listing of all triple plays (TP) in baseball history on sabr.org.  We scanned the page for a long time talking about oddities and frequencies. Here are a few things we discovered at the time and, upon further review, I uncovered afterward.


As of this post, there have been 701 TPs in major league history.  By a wide margin, the most common TP is from third to second to first base - 5-4-3.  There have been 84 of those.  The most complex TP (the one involving the most exchanges of the ball to complete) came in 1913 when the Philadelphia Athletics played at the Cleveland Naps.  The ball changed hands ten times in that play, a record as far as I know.  That one was scored 6-2-5-1-5-4-5-6-5-7, obviously an extended rundown play.  It also was the only TP I could find where a single position play (third base in this case) touched the ball four times in the course of the three outs.  Frank "Home Run" Baker was the third baseman in that situation.  


On the other end of spectrum, there have been only a handful of unassisted TPs.  Two by a first baseman.  Five by a second baseman. Eight by a shortstop.  But the play that generated the most discussion was the one TP involving a center fielder (an 8-8-8). That feat was accomplished (or not) by Paul Hines way back in 1878 in a game with the Providence Grays at the Boston Red Caps. It was a puzzle how Hines pulled this off.  Mark, Ron, and I offered various possibilities without knowing the full story. Did the catch the shallow fly behind second with the runner's going, tag second for the force and then tag the runner before he got back to first?  We didn't know.  


Well it turns out the scoring is "disputed." Apparently, Hines did one of two things.  Either he caught the ball on a dead run and tagged third after both runners on base had either touched or passed third (which would have been an unassisted TP) OR he caught the ball, tagged third, and threw to second for the final out (which would have been an 8-8-4 TP).  The question seems to be whether both runners either touched or passed third.  If they did then the throw to second was just precautionary by Hines and it was all "unassisted." You can read about the unusual circumstances here.


Actually, since the scoring on the play is disputed SABR does not count the Hines TP as "unassisted." So, officially there are only 15 unassisted TPs in the books.


That's the beauty of baseball; the depth of the game in any present moment and the depth of the game's history through time.  It makes for great conversations between fans of the game.  Mark, Ron, and I certainly enjoyed exploring the wacky world of TPs and all their historic variations while drinking PBRs, which was another first for me at a 'Dillo event.  I don't recall the last PBR I drank.  It might have been in college.  I might have to revisit another six-pack again before summer is out. Pabst is not the best tasting beer but it does conjure memories...on more than one level.

The debris of last Friday afternoon's partying.  As always, a relaxing time was had by all.

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