I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard of a triple play before, but have you also heard of an unassisted triple play? If you haven’t, let me explain: an unassisted triple play is when one player on the field makes all three outs of a triple play without any help, for example no throw to him from another player or a ball bobbled by another player that he happened to pick up. An unassisted triple play has occurred in baseball history just 15 times… and one of those times occurred in the World Series! The man who made the unassisted triple play was named Bill Wambsganss (the “B” in Wambsganss is silent) for the Cleveland Indians in the 1920 World Series against the Brooklyn Robins (today the Robins are the LA Dodgers). Let me tell you a little bit about Bill and then I’ll get to the triple play.
In a 13-year career from 1914-1926 with the Indians, Philadelphia Athletics, and Boston Red Sox, Wambsganss posted a .259 lifetime batting average with a measly seven homers and 519 RBIs in 1,492 games. “Wamby”, as he was called by writers who couldn’t pronounce his last name, was the starting second baseman of the Cleveland Indians for ten years from ’14-‘23, his longest stint with any of the teams he played with. He hit a career-high .295 in 1918 and .290 in 1923, his two best hitting years in his career. That’s about all there is to Wamby, except for that unassisted triple play I was telling you about before.
In Game Five of the 1920 World Series at League Park in Cleveland against the Brooklyn Robins with runners on first and second in the top of the fifth, Bill caught a screaming line drive by Clarence Mitchell, stepped on second base to retire Pete Kilduff and tagged Otto Miller coming from first base, to complete the first and only unassisted triple play in World Series history! The amazing thing about it was the fact that if Bill was standing in his assigned spot on the field, he would have never had a chance at catching the line drive! But because Michell was a lefty, Wambsganss expected the ball to be pulled more towards the first base line, so he took a couple steps to his left. Also, at that time, Cleveland was winning 8-0, so it would be just stupid if Clarence were to bunt the runners over. Thinking that in his mind, Wamby took a few steps back because of the certainty that Mitchell would not bunt. It made him look like a genius when he pulled off the impossible, and it made him look like a Cleveland hero when he received a medal of congratulations from the city of Cleveland for performing the great play.