Page 77 – Most triples play, season, league – AL, 10, 1979
Thanks to the excellent work of Chuck Rosciam and Frank Hamilton details of every triple play in the history of the major leagues is available from Retrosheet.
So here are the details of the 1979 triple plays, the triple playingest year of them all in the AL. The NL has never had more than seven in any one season and that hasn't happened since 1929. Perhaps they have faster runners or they hit fewer line drives in the NL. But I'm chalking it up to chance.
May 7, 1979 - Oakland at Baltimore – It's the bottom of the third and the score is tied at 3-3. Gary Roenicke is at the plate with Eddie Murray on first and Ken Singleton on second. Rick Langford is on the mound. Roenicke hits a grounder to Oakland third baseman Wayne Gross, who steps on third to force to Murray and then relays to second baseman Mickey Klutts to force Singleton at second and then Klutts' throw to first baseman Dave Revering beats Roenicke for the triple play (5-4-3). It's the first triple play in Oakland Athletics history. And Oakland would go on to win the game 5-3.
May 10, 1979 – California at Boston – Top of the seventh and the Angels lead 5-3 and they are threatening to add more runs with Rod Carew on second and Don Baylor on first and Joe Rudi at bat. Rudi hits a fly ball to short right field that Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy manages to snag. Both runners thought the ball would fall in so Remy threw to shortstop Rick Burleson to retire Carew and then Burleson threw over to first baseman George Scott to complete the triple play (4-6-3). The Angels held on for a 5-3 win.
June 19, 1979 – Kansas City at Oakland – It's a 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth and the Royals are threatening against Matt Keough. Darrell Porter stands at second and George Brett at first. Al Cowens hits a ground ball to Wayne Gross, who flashes back to May 7, and steps on third for the first out, then throws to second baseman Mike Edwards, who relays it to first baseman Dave Revering and Oakland picks up its second 5-4-3 TP in six weeks. Oakland will win the game 6-5.
June 23, 1979 – Texas at Oakland – Oakland leads Texas 3-2, but the Rangers lead off the fourth inning against Craig Minetto with infield singles by Oscar Gamble and Bill Sample. Johnny Grubb comes to the plate. Texas manager Pat Corrales asks Grubb to bunt, but he pops it up to the Human Triple Play Maker Wayne Gross. Gross throws to second to try to double off Gamble, but the throw went over the head of shortstop Dave Chalk. Centerfielder Tony Armas was backing up the play and was able to throw the ball back to Chalk for the second out. Then Armas noticed that Sample was well off of first base, but there was no first baseman covering as Jeff Newman had charged in on the play, so Armas ran to first and Chalk threw the ball to him there to complete the highly unlikely 5-8-6-8 triple play. The Rangers would win the game 8-5 in 10 innings. 2,512 fans were at the game.
July 23, 1979 – California at Boston – Top of the eighth inning and the Red Sox are getting clobbered 9-0. The Angels have the bases loaded against Allen Ripley. Carney Lansford is at third, Dan Ford is at second, and Don Baylor is at first. Willie Aikens is at the plate and he's the only Angel starter without a hit. Aikens hits a line drive, but it's right at shortstop Rick Burleson. Burleson steps on second to force out Ford and then throws to Carl Yastrzemski at first for the triple play. (6-3). I remember that this game was televised, but my brother changed the channel a couple minutes before the play because he wanted to irritate me for some reason. The Angels won the game 9-2. There was also a triple play in the NL this day by Atlanta against Pittsburgh.
September 7, 1979 – Toronto at Cleveland – In top of the top of the eighth, the Blue Jays lead 8-3, but Cleveland has Mike Hargrove on second and Rick Manning on first. Phil Huffman, en route to a 6-18 season, is pitching. Ted Cox comes to the plate and hits a grounder to Roy Howell at third, who steps on the base, throws to second baseman Luis Gomez and Gomez throws on to first baseman John Mayberry for the triple play. (5-4-3). Cleveland would score six runs in the ninth to win the game 9-8. 4,222 fans take in the action.
September 21, 1979 – New York at Toronto – In the top of the seventh, the Yankees trail the Blue Jays 3-2. Chris Chambliss is on second and Roy Staiger on first. Tom Underwood is pitching for Toronto against Damaso Garcia of the Yankees. Garcia lines the ball to second baseman Dave McKay for the first out. McKay throws the ball to first baseman Craig Kusick for the second out and Kusick throws the ball back to shortstop Alfredo Griffin for the third out (4-3-6). Chambliss and Garcia would be traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason for Underwood and Rick Cerone. Chambliss never played for Toronto though as they quickly traded him to Atlanta along with Luis Gomez
Both Boston and Oakland turned three triple plays, tying the major league record. The Red Sox finished with a 91-69 record, but the Athletics finished with a 54-108 record. The Blue Jays turned two triple plays and they finished 53-109. The Angels hit into three triple plays and won the AL West. The Orioles hit into a triple play and also turned a triple play and won the pennant. And the Pirates, who hit into the lone triple play in the NL, won the World Series.
All of this proves that the correlation between triple plays and anything else in baseball is pretty much nonexistent. They are out of the ordinary, but not always extraordinary.