Call It Three: A Triple Play! A History Of The Triple Plays Turned By The Blue Jays

Our photo supplier did not have any pictures of the triple play turned last night, so here is Adam Lind signing a bat at the Jays Shop in the Eaton Centre. (photo credit: Minor Leaguer)

The Toronto Blue Jays turned a triple play Friday night in the game against the Kansas City Royals. That was only the 4th triple play in franchise history, and the first one since September 21, 1979. To compare, the Seattle Mariners (who also started playing in 1977), have turned 9 in their history.

Here is the record of all the regular season triple plays in Blue Jays history. The Jays turned a triple play in game 3 of the 1992 World Series, unfortunately umpire Bob Davidson thought otherwise.

1. April 22, 1978 versus the Chicago White Sox at Exhibition Stadium, 2nd inning [1-3-6]

Background. The Blue Jays' first ever triple play also happened in April, but it was actually the fourth triple play of the season--after the Astros (April 6), Padres (April 11), and Astros again (April 21). Jays starter Jim Clancy allowed a lead off homer by Bobby Bonds to start the top of the 2nd to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Lamar Johnson followed with a double to the left field gap, then Ron Blomberg (MLB's first designated hitter) dribbled an infield single to SS Luis Gomez.

Play Description. Chicago 3B Junior Moore, playing to give regular 3B Eric Soderholm a day off), stepped up to the plate to bunt to advance the runners (Blomberg on 1st and Johnson on 2nd). Instead of a sacrifice, with the runners going, Moore actually lined the ball back to Clancy (out #1), who then tossed it to 1B John Mayberry to force out Blomberg (out #2) before throwing it to Gomez to force out Johnson (out #3). WPA: +.128.

Voices. "I wasn't aware of a triple play. I saw the runner out of the corner of my eye, and I knew I could get him at first." - Jim Clancy.

Final Score. 4-2 win for the Blue Jays.

2. September 7, 1979 versus the Cleveland Indians at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 8th inning [5-4-3]

Background. The Blue Jays landed in Cleveland with a 44-96 record and on a 4-game losing streak. Things were quiet in the early innings but things looked good for the Jays, who exploded for 6 runs in the 5th and 2 runs in the 6th, highlighted by a 5th inning grand slam courtesy of Rico Carty. In the bottom of the 8th, with the Jays leading 8-3, starter Phil Huffman walked Mike Hargrove, and allowed a single to Rick Manning, advancing Hargrove to 2nd base.

Play Description. Cleveland's utility infielder Teddy Cox, who was having his first at bat of the game after coming in defensively in the top of the inning, was placed in Bobby Bonds' slot in the lineup. Cox grounded to his counterpart 3B Roy Howell, who stepped on the base to force out Hargrove (out #1). Howell then threw it to 2B Luis Gomez to force Manning (out #2), and then Gomez completed the 'round-the-horn triple play by throwing to 1B John Mayberry to force Cox (out #3). WPA: +.072. (Note: the Blue Jays' 2012 Official Guide erroneously states that the triple play happened with the bases loaded as shown by the game's Retrosheet boxscore. The mistake can be found as far as the in the oldest Official Guide I have, from 2000.)

Fun Fact. 4,222 fans were in attendance in a stadium that seated 78,000.

Final Score. 9-8 loss for the Blue Jays. The Indians rallied against Huffman and Tom Buskey to score 6 runs in the bottom of the 9th. Although the Jays' defense turned a triple play, they also made 4 errors (it was originally recorded as 6, but the Official Scorer reversed 2 after the game).

3. September 21, 1979 versus the New York Yankees in Exhibition Stadium, 7th inning [4-3-6]

Background. The Blue Jays recorded the 10th and 11th triple plays of the 1979 season within the same month. The 11 triple plays of 1979 tied the modern Major League record of most in a season (other seasons with 11: 1924 and 1929). Leading the Yankees 3-2 in the top of the 7th, starter Tom Underwood allowed two straight singles to Chris Chambliss and Roy Staiger to start the inning.

Play Description. With the runners starting early, Yankee SS Damaso Garcia hit a hard liner directly at 2B Dave McKay (out #1), who then threw to 1B Craig Kusick to force Staiger (out #2), Kusick then threw the ball to SS Alfredo Griffin to catch Chamblass before he was able to return to 2nd (out #3). WPA: +.270.

Voices. "I knew we had it, but I wanted to check on the runners. I saw that Chambliss was almost to third and maybe Staiger might make it back. So I threw it to Kooz to see what he'd do with it." - Dave McKay. "And I almost threw it away!" - Craig Kusick.

Fun Fact. A little over a month later, the Yankees traded Chris Chambliss and Damaso Garcia (along with Paul Mirabella) to Toronto for Tom Underwood (along with Rick Cerone and Ted Wilborn).

Final Score. 3-2 win for the Blue Jays.

4. April 20, 2012 versus the Kansas City Royals in Kauffman Stadium, 3rd inning [3-6]

Background. After exactly 11,900 days (32 years and 7 months) and 5,084 regular season games without turning a triple play, the Blue Jays recorded MLB's second one of 2012, coming just 5 days after a bizarre triple play was turned by the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres resulting from an umpire's "improper mechanic." In this game, the Blue Jays were down 1-0 against the Royals when starter Kyle Drabek allowed a double to deep right field to Alex Gordon and a walk to Yuniesky Betancourt to begin the bottom of the 3rd.

Play Description. The runners were on the move when 1B Eric Hosmer lined a 2-2 pitch to his counterpart 1B Adam Lind (out #1), who then stepped on 1st base to force Betancourt (out #2) before throwing the ball to 2nd base where SS Yunel Escobar touched the bag to force Gordon (out #3). WPA: +.125.

Video from MLB.com. MLB.com's "Must C" video will let you hear Alan Ashby and the Royals' calls on the play

Voices. "As soon as I caught it, I knew [a chance for a triple play] was there. I touched first base and went to second. Both runners were off the bag, so there wasn’t much to think about. [...] Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 33 years to get one." - Adam Lind. "Yeah, that was the first one I’ve ever seen in my whole baseball career." - Kyle Drabek.

Final Score. 4-3 win for the Blue Jays.

Sources: Toronto Blue Jays 2012 Official Guide, Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet's "Triple Plays", Fangraphs, and the Toronto Star's "Pages of the Past" archives.

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