The Philadelphia Phillies have turned 31 triple plays in franchise history, the most recent back in the 2009 season.
It has happened a total of 697 times in Major League Baseball history from 1876 through the 2015 season. The triple play. All three outs in a half-inning completed on the same play.
The first time that the Phillies turned a triple play was all the way back on September 8th, 1890, in what was only the eighth season of the franchise’ existence. On that Monday afternoon at National League Park (later Baker Bowl), Baseball Hall of Famer Harry Wright‘s Phillies defeated the Brooklyn Bridegrooms by a 4-3 score.
Helping the team to secure that victory, raising their record to 43-48 at that point, was the triple play turned when ‘Grooms shortstop Germany Smith grounded to Phils’ shortstop Bob Allen, who began the play that continued to 2nd baseman Al Myers, and finally 1st baseman Al McCauley.
Despite the rarity of the triple play, the Phillies rarely went more than a few years without turning one. A year after turning that first triple play, the team turned its second in 1891. It would be another 17 years before the team turned its third in the 1908 season.
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On May 4th, 1968 the combination of shortstop Bobby Wine, 2nd baseman Cookie Rojas, and 1st baseman Bill White turned a triple play at Connie Mack Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It would be the last turned by the team for the next quarter century, the longest gap in club history.
The most recent Phillies triple play was turned in a fashion that has been deemed one of the most rare plays in all of baseball – unassisted. There have been only 15 unassisted triple plays in the game’s history, and the Phillies actually have two of these instances in which just one player recorded all three putouts on the same play. In fact, both of those instances happened in relatively recent team history.
On September 20th, 1992 in a game at Three Rivers Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates, that feat was accomplished by 2nd baseman Mickey Morandini. With Curt Schilling on the mound, Bucs’ 3rd baseman Jeff King hit a liner to Morandini, who moved up and tug out Barry Bonds running towards 2nd while stepping on the bag to double off Andy Van Slyke, who was unable to get back in time.
Then on August 23rd, 2009 at Citi Field against the New York Mets, the most recent triple play in Phillies history and most recent unassisted triple play in Major League Baseball was turned by Eric Bruntlett.
Those Phillies held a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the 9th, when the first two batters each reached against Phils’ closer Brad Lidge thanks to a pair of errors, the first committed by 1st baseman Ryan Howard, and the next by Bruntlett himself. Daniel Murphy then beat out a grounder to Bruntlett for an infield single to load the bases with nobody out.
Down by three runs, the potential tying runners were then aboard. It was then that history occurred. The batter was future Phillies fan favorite Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy lined a ball at Bruntlett, who caught it, quickly stepped on 2nd base to double off Luis Castillo, and then tug out a dancing Murphy for the 3rd out.
The last triple play turned against the Phillies and one of only two ever turned at Citizens Bank Park was all the way back on August 19th, 2004 by the Houston Astros. During a 12-10 slugfest loss that day, Todd Pratt hit into one in the bottom of the 5th against David Weathers.
Why the picture of Chase Utley accompanying this story? Well, Utley was involved in two triple plays, both in the same season. The first happened on April 21st, 2007 at Cincinnati, and the second on September 12th, 2007 at Citizens Bank Park against the Colorado Rockies.
The triple play is indeed a very infrequent play in baseball, and an unassisted triple play a true rarity. But the Phillies have been involved in both in the past, and are sure to be involved in such plays in the future. It might not happen again in your lifetime. But it also might happen the next time that you go out to the ballpark.