Before Sunday, it had been 130 years since anyone turned a similar type of bizarre triple play that the Los Angeles Dodgers turned against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win.
But with the logistics involved and the help from the home plate umpire that the Dodgers received, it'll probably take another 130 years for anyone to do it again.
For those keeping score at home, that's a 2-5-6-3 triple play that went around all four bases, the first 2-5-6-3 triple play that featured a putout at third, second and first. (A 2-5-6-3 triple play turned by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950 started with a strikeout.)
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According to this list compiled by SABR, three instances of a 2-5-4-3 triple play — swapping out the shortstop for the second baseman — occurred in the 19th century. The last major-league 2-5-4-3 triple play occurred in a Sept. 13, 1882 game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and Louisville Colonels.
With the relative bounty of 2-5-4-3 triple plays before the deadball era, one wonders if the ballplayers involved were still unclear on the rules of baseball. (As a nod to Old Hoss Radbourn, we'll also acknowledge it's possible they were just exceedingly drunk.)
Sunday's triple play, however, was the product of a weird set of circumstances that started when San Diego's Jesus Guzman squared around to bunt with runners on first and second. Javy Guerra's pitch came high and inside, deflecting off Guzman's bat to an area in front of the plate. Guzman and the two baserunners stayed put as they thought the bunt was foul after home plate umpire Dale Scott threw his hands up in a dead ball motion, but catcher A.J. Ellis followed through on the play. He picked up the ball and started the 270 feet of throws as Scott then pointed that the ball was fair.
"I just wanted to play it out," said Ellis, whose Dodgers won on a walk-off single a few minutes later. "One thing we learn is you keep playing and don't assume anything. Just play, play, play until somebody stops you."
It was the Dodgers' first triple play of any kind since June 13, 1998, and its controversial nature led to Bud Black's ejection after the Padres manager argued the ruling.
"(Scott) was waving, not once, but twice," said (Chase) Headley, who was on first. "To me, that means it's a foul ball. What are we supposed to do? From my vantage point, we did what we [baserunners] were supposed to do. It's just a crazy thing."
The Padres certainly have a beef with the wishy-washy way that Scott handled the play — especially since the Dodgers won the game in the bottom of the inning — but for better or for worse the play will stand by itself in baseball history as one of a kind.
UPDATE: MLB senior vice president Peter Woodfork released the following statement on Monday afternoon after investigating the play (via Gaslamp Ball):
"After review and discussion with the umpire, we have determined that the call itself of a fair ball was correct. However, while making the call, there was an incorrect mechanic, which appeared to confuse San Diego's base runners. At no time did the umpire verbally kill the play on the field. After reviewing the entire situation following the game, the umpire realizes his hands were in an exaggerated upward appearance similar to a call that would indicate a dead ball. While we all agree that it was a fair ball that did not hit the batter, the umpire recognizes that the proper mechanic was not executed as he tried to avoid the catcher."
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