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Game 79

July 19, 1909 – Neal Ball Makes First-Ever Unassisted Triple Play

Cy Young was pitching for the Indians at League Park against Charlie Chech and the Red Sox in the first game of a Monday double-header.

The play-by-play of the game has been lost to history, but plenty of newspaper accounts preserve the box score and much has been written about the events that make this game notable, even 110 years later.

With the Naps up 1-0 in the top of the second, Boston’s Heinie Wagner singled to lead off. Jake Stahl moved Wagner over to second base with a bunt single. The hit-and-run was initiated with Amby McConnell at the plate. McConnel, lined the 3-2 pitch up the middle and Wagner was on his way to third on contact.

Neal Ball leaped to spear the line drive was it passed directly over second base. The ball stuck in his glove, and he landed on second, forcing out Wagner who was most of the way to third. Stahl attempted to reverse course, but Ball ran him down between first and second to record the third out.

Neal Ball’s Unassisted Triple Play Glove. Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame

The play happened so quickly, that initially there was confusion. Cy Young asked Ball why he was headed to the dugout. “That’s three outs,” he deadpanned. Once fans at League Park realized what they had seen, they showered the field with their hats in celebration.

Ball himself later recounted the play, “I didn’t think there was a chance of getting it but I was on the move toward second and I gave it a try anyhow. It was dead over the bag by then so I jumped and the darned thing hit my glove and stuck. The rest was easy. Wagner was way around third base somewhere and when I came down on the bag he was out. I just stood there with my hands out and Stahl ran into them. He was halfway down when the ball was hit and couldn’t stop. That’s all there was to it. I can still remember how surprised I was when the ball hit in my glove.”

It so often seems that at player that makes a spectacular defensive play follows it up with offensive heroics. Whether this is due to adrenaline, a run of good luck, or additional swagger, it was certainly true for Neal Ball. With the crowd still cheering the triple play, he hit Chech’s first pitch of the third inning deep into League Park’s spacious outfield. He rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The Naps would go on to win the game 6-1.

There have been only 15 unassisted triple plays in Major League History. The Indians are the only team to have recorded three. In addition to Ball’s triple play, Bill Wambganss recorded the only unassisted triple play in World Series history in the 1920 Series against Brooklyn and Asdrubal Cabrera put out three Blue Jays in Game 38 of the 2008 season.

Neal Ball remains the only player in MLB history to record an unassisted triple play and a home run in the same inning–a feat that is unlikely to ever be matched.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Retrosheet Information

Honorable Mention: July 1, 2016 – 19 Inning Win Over Toronto on Canada Day

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Game 19

May 10, 1972 – Gaylord Perry Complete Game Win

The most unusual thing about this game is that it was not unusual at all for the time. The Indians were bad, and Gaylord Perry was brilliant. The Royals were in for a Wednesday night game on the Lakefront. Just short of 4,600 fans were in attendance.

In 1972, Perry won 24 games on an Indians squad that managed just 72 wins on the season. 20 of those 24 wins were complete games.

Perry was out to a hot start, striking out Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas to begin the game.

In the bottom of the 3rd, the Tribe rallied with two outs. Del Unser drew a walk to get things started. Jack Brohamer singled to center, and Alex Johnson brought them home with a 3-run homer.

With Jim Rooker pitching in the bottom of the 6th, the Indians scored two more runs on RBI singles by Frank Duffy and Gaylord Perry helping out his own cause.

Richie Scheinblum put KC on the board with an RBI single in the top of the 7th. Freddie Patek drove in another Royal run in the top of the 8th with an double to right field.

All in all, Perry pitched a complete game. He posted seven strikeouts, two earned runs on five hits and two walks.

A solid performance, but standard data for Gaylord Perry who accounted for fully 39% of the Indians wins during his tenure with the team.

Illustration – New York Times

His success stemmed mainly from his talent as a pitcher, but also from the performance of being Gaylord Perry. Although the spitball had been outlawed in 1920, Perry admitted to doctoring balls with saliva, KY jelly, sweat, and virtually any viscous substance at hand. He even occasionally threw a “puffball” where he would rosin his hands so thoroughly the ball would leave his hand in a distracting plume of dust.

Perry had an elaborate setup that included touching his cap, belt, glove, and other parts of his uniform. Whether the ball was doctored or not, hitters were so focused on catching him in the act that they whiffed on entirely legal pitches.

“I don’t even have to throw it anymore, because the batters are set up to believe it’s there, waiting for ’em.”

Whatever the truth of the matter, the persona that Perry created around himself makes for a legend in Tribe history. He went on to become the first pitcher to earn the Cy Young in both leagues–with the Tribe in 1972 and the Padres in 1978. He also cut one of the great early-90s SportsCenter commercials.

Baseball Reference

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Game 6

April 7, 2013

In Game 1 of 2013, Justin Masterson and the Indians defeated the Blue Jays behind NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who had been traded from the Mets in the offseason.

The Indians sat at 2-3 on the season coming into Game 6 against the Rays. The Tribe Entered Sunday afternoon at the Trop’ with reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price on the mound. It seemed a cruel twist of fate to face both of the previous year’s Cy Young winners in the first week of the season.

Masterson pitched a gem of a game. Seven innings, eight strikeouts, and only three walks. Masterson faced a bases-loaded threat only once in the bottom of the first. With Ben Zobrist on third, Evan Longoria on second, and James Loney on first, Masterson struck out Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar on three straight pitches to end the threat.

Michael Bourn led off the game with a double and then stole third, but the Indians were retired without scoring. In the top of the 2nd, Drew Stubbs drove in Mike Aviles to put the Tribe on the board.

In the top of the 3rd, Price walked Asdrubal Cabrera and Ryan Raburn. After a lineout by Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds hit a home run to deep center field. After that, the rout was on. Lonnie Chisenhall, and Michael Bourn notched their first home runs of the season. Carlos Santana had an incredible day with 5 hits in 5 appearances, including a line drive home run off the right field foul pole to add an exclamation point to the  13-0 game.

After the game, Masterson demurred with some solid pitcher platitudes,

”The boys came out and they just bamboozled, just started hitting some balls,” Masterson said. ”It was pretty cool to see. That’s pretty much the testament. They played good defense, made some good plays out there, and they were just crushing balls. And they were putting runs on the board, and it makes the job on the pitcher a lot easier.”

In 1989 Bruce Hurst and the San Diego Padres defeated Orel Hershiser with the Dodgers and Frank Viola after Viola was traded from the Twins to the Mets at the trade deadline in 1989. Pitching for the Braves in 2003, Shane Reynolds defeated Randy Johnson with the Diamondbacks and Barry Zito with the Athletics in an interleague game. However, Masterson is the only pitcher to have accomplished this unlikely feat, dueling with the reigning Cy Young winners in consecutive starts and coming out on top.

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