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Rarest of feats

Furcal turns 12th unassited triple play in baseball history

Posted: Sunday August 10, 2003 9:52 PM
Updated: Monday August 11, 2003 6:20 PM
  Rafael Furcal, Orlando Palmeiro Rafael Furcal caught Woody Williams' line drive, doubled Mike Matheny off second base and tagged out Orlando Palmeiro, who was off on the pitch. AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rafael Furcal has joined one of baseball's ultra-exclusive clubs.

The Atlanta Braves shortstop turned just the 12th unassisted triple play in modern major league history Sunday night, a feat so rare the game once went 41 years without one.

"It was a big play at the time because the game was 1-1," Furcal said. "I thought the play had a real flow. I thought we would have momentum after that."

On a 1-1 count, manager Tony La Russa removed the bunt sign and gave Carake, but that's one of the risks, a ball on a line in the infield," La Russa said. "It's a bad memory, so I don't really think about it much."

Furcal leaped to snare Williams' liner, stepped on second base to double up Mike Matheny, and tagged out Orlando Palmeiro as he made a futile attempt to get back to first.

It was the first unassisted triple play in the majors since Oakland second baseman Randy Velarde did it against the New York Yankees on May 29, 2000.

Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun made one in 1927, but there wasn't another until Washington Senators shortstop Ron Hansen did it in 1968. Another 14 years passed before Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini joined the ultra exclusive club.

On Sunday, the triple play had competition for dramatics from the Cardinals' eighth-inning rally on back-to-back homers from Eduardo Perez and Albert Pujols. Pujols connected for the game-winning blast against John Smoltz, the major league saves leader.

"I don't know what else anybody could want in a game," the Braves' Gary Sheffield said. "You had a playoff atmosphere, a triple play and home runs.

"It was as exciting for the players as it was for the fans."

Ironically, it might have been Furcal's misplay that led to the scenario. Matheny singled to start the fifth and Palmeiro reached on his sacrifice bunt when Furcal was late covering second on an attempted forceout as second baseman Brian Giles backed up first.

Furcal quickly made amends.

Palmeiro didn't let being tripled off bother him.

"I don't think the guys were deflated. I know I wasn't," Palmeiro said. "I was hoping we'd get some stuff go our way and it sure did."

The St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Braves 3-2.

Unassisted Triple Plays
A description of each of the unassisted triple plays completed in major league baseball:
Rafael Furcal -- Aug. 10, 2003
Atlanta shortstop Rafael Furcal turned his in the fifth inning against St. Louis. Furcal caught Woody Williams' line drive, stepped on second to double Mike Matheny and tagged Orlando Palmeiro, who was running back to first.
Randy Velarde -- May 29, 2000
Oakland second baseman Randy Velarde turned his in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees. Velarde caught Shane Spencer's line drive, tagged Jorge Posada between first and second and touched second base before Tino Martinez could return.
John Valentin -- July 8, 1994
Boston shortstop John Valentin turned his in the sixth inning against Seattle. Valentin caught Marc Newfield's line drive, stepped on second base to double Mike Blowers and tagged Keith Mitchell.
Mickey Morandini -- Sept. 20, 1992
Philadelphia second baseman Mickey Morandini turned his in the sixth inning against Pittsburgh. Morandini caught Jeff King's line drive up the middle, stepped on second to double Andy Van Slyke and tagged Barry Bonds who was standing near second base.
Ron Hansen -- July 30, 1968
Washington shortstop Ron Hansen turned his in the first inning against Cleveland. Hansen caught Joe Azcue's line drive, stepped on second to double Dave Nelson and tagged Russ Snyder going toward second.
Johnny Neun -- May 31, 1927
Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun turned his in the ninth inning against Cleveland. Neun caught Homer Summa's line drive, tagged Charlie Jamieson between first and second and touched second base before Glenn Myatt could return.
Jimmy Cooney -- May 30, 1927
Chicago shortstop Jim Cooney turned his in the fourth inning of the morning game against Pittsburgh. Cooney took Paul Waner's line drive, stepped on second to retire Lloyd Waner and then tagged Clyde Barnhart coming from first.
Glenn Wright -- May 7, 1925
Pittsburgh shortstop Glenn Wright turned his in the ninth inning against St. Louis. Wright caught Jim Bottomley's line drive, stepped on second to retire Jimmy Cooney, and tagged Roger Hornsby coming from first to end the game.
Ernie Padgett -- Oct. 6, 1923
Boston shortstop Ernie Padgett turned his in the fourth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies. Padgett caught Walter Holke's line drive, stepped on second base to retire Cotton Tierney and then tagged Cliff Lee before he could return to first base.
George H. Burns -- Sept. 14, 1923
Boston first baseman George Burns turned his in the second inning against Cleveland. Burns caught Frank Brower's line drive, tagged Walt Lutzke off first base and ran to second and slid into the bag before Riggs Stephenson could return from third base.
Bill Wambsganss -- Oct. 10, 1920
Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss turned his in the fifth inning of the fifth game of the World Series against Brooklyn. Wambsganss caught Willie Mitchell's line drive stepped on second to retire Pete Kilduff and tagged Otto Miller coming from first.
Neal Ball -- July 19, 1909
Cleveland shortstop Neal Ball turned his in the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader with Boston. Ball caught Amby McConnell's line drive at second base, touched second to retire Heinie Wagner, who was on his way to third, then tagged Jake Stahl as he came up to second.

Related information
Unassisted Triple Plays
Cards overcome unassisted triple play, Braves
Braves-Cardinal Box Score
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