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Roy Blount Jr.
August 09, 1993
Without the pizzazz of doubles and triples, baseball would be nothing but plink-BOOM, and what fun would that be?
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August 09, 1993


Without the pizzazz of doubles and triples, baseball would be nothing but plink-BOOM, and what fun would that be?

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Biographical License alone, in fact, enabled me to answer another question I was asked in a later baseball conversation: In 1908, when George (Hooks) Wiltse was one strike away from a perfect game (with two outs in the ninth and a count of 0 and 2 on the opposing pitcher), why did Wiltse hit that batter with a pitch?

According to BL, this is what went through Wiltse's mind: "Hmmm. I think I'll plunk this turkey in the slats. That way, from now on, when anybody is tempted to dig in against me, this is what will go through his mind: Nooo, better not. Wiltse is crazy as an outhouse rat."

So much for matters of procedure. Now it's Webb, it's Wilson, it's doubles and triples.

What would baseball be without two-base and three-base hits? Batting would be just plink-BOOM, plink-BOOM, instead of plink-rumba-barumba-BOOM. Singles don't test the game's outer perimeter, and after the thrill of a home run, there's an almost empty feeling—the offense has to start over. Whereas doubles and triples stir things up and keep them in suspension, clearing the bases in most cases and still leaving a man in scoring position.

A Punch and Judy hitter gets singles, and Dave Kingman hit home runs. Most doubles and triples spring from the contact, pop and hustle of solid line-drive hitters who can run some. There is nothing quite like the resonance of a ringing double, and people say that the triple is the game's most exciting play: long ball sets off a loping scramble into the gap or to the wall, a throw to the cutoff man, a throw to third (the ball alive longer than in any play except an inside-the-park homer or perhaps some kind of fielding debacle), trying to beat a 90-yard sprint around two corners (sprinter looking now at the ball, now at the vigilant third base coach), generally ending in a hard slide and prolonged self-dusting.

"I don't know why people like the home run so much," said George Foster (who in 1977 hit 52 of them). "A triple is like meeting a woman who excites you, spending the evening talking and getting more excited, then taking her home. It drags on and on. You're never sure how it's going to turn out." (In 18 years Foster hit 47 triples.)

However, there aren't many other quotes about triples. Former Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger executive Fresco Thompson once said Willie Mays's glove was "where triples go to die." And once, after pulling into third with a triple, Shoeless Joe Jackson looked over at a heckler who had been asking him if he could spell illiterate and supposedly yelled, "Hey, Bigmouth, how do you spell triple?" That's about it.

Pressed for a statement, Sanders says, "I don't really think about the triple thing. I just keep running, go as far as I can, moving as fast as I can. I try to pick up the ball quickly, to get a feel for how far I can go. There is really not a whole lot to it: Just run, and I can do that."

Nobody ever said, "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, singles hitters drive Fords, and of course doubles and triples hitters drive, oh, Mercurys, Buicks."

In fact, diligent Annals work leads to the conclusion that nobody has ever said anything memorable about the double, except once, derogatorily. Johnny Hodapp, who had one great season of doubles, 51 for the Cleveland Indians in 1930, said, "I remember Tony Lazzeri looking at me after I slid into second base, 'I hope to god you rot here,' he said. 'I'm tired of seeing you down here.' "

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