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The lengths the White Sox have gone for a triple play

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Friday's 9-3-2-6-2-5 is the 30th triple play in franchise history, but it's far from the longest

Jon Durr/Getty Images

If you had to identify a flaw with the triple play executed by the White Sox on Friday, it's that it could've been two steps simpler had Tyler Saladino held onto the ball.

After Dioner Navarro fired to Saladino to force Prince Fielder home, it was a footrace between the White Sox' fastest player and (one of?) the Rangers' slowest -- not to mention Fielder was 1) running for a while, and 2) not making a hard break for home. Saladino could've chased him down clean, but instead he flipped to Navarro. That's one player Fielder can outrun, and so Navarro had to get the ball to Todd Frazier to end it.

I don't really care, of course. For one, the White Sox executed a no-throw rundown in the first inning, so they had earned a little room to stretch out. Moreover, it was the 30th triple play in White Sox history, and thanks to Saladino's extra throw, it stands out for being extra convoluted.

The chain -- 9-3-2-6-2-5 -- is the only one of its kind in SABR's triple play database. And, with six numbers, it's tied for the longest scoring sequence among the 30 White Sox triple plays listed.

The other is identified as a 5-2-6-4-3-6 triple play during the back end of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns on  April 28, 1947. While that chain is impressive enough, it might only tell half the story. Some details suggest Navarro and Frazier would've had to play catch for a minute to catch up.

The 1947 White Sox were a nondescript team that was on its way to a 70-84 record, the fourth of six consecutive losing seasons. The Browns were even worse, which means the proceedings lacked any household names. Here's a cast list for your convenience:

  • Third baseman: Floyd Baker
  • Catcher: George Dickey
  • Shortstop: Jack Wallaesa
  • Second baseman: Cass Michaels
  • First baseman: Jake Jones
  • Batter: Johnny Berardino
  • Runner on second: Wally Judnich
  • Runner on third: Jerry Witte

Details from this era are difficult to pin down, as play-by-play date isn't complete this far back. Here's the Chicago Tribune's account:

Before the second inning, daffiness arose, the Browns had scored a run on doubles by Heath and Witte and Judnich had walked. Along came Berardino with a tap to Baker, thus launching the series of throws that culminated in the triple play. Baker and Dickey exchanged throws and, when Dickey threw the second time, Wallaesa was at third to tag Witte.

Wallaesa looked around and there was Judnich on the way to third. He chased him back toward second and threw to Michaels who made the putout. Michaels looked over the situation and found Berardino half way to second. Michaels and Jones exchanged throws with Berardino in the middle, but eventually Jones threw to Wallaesa and the now dizzy Berardino was expunged.

From the Sporting News:

Weird base-running enabled the White Sox to duplicate the feat against the Browns in the second game of a double-header the next day. The Browns had scored a run on doubles by Jeff Heath and Jerry Witte, after which Wally Judnich walked. Johnny Berardino tapped to Third Baseman Floyd Baker, who launched a series of throws. Witte was caught beween third and home, with Baker and Catcher George Dickey exchanging tosses and Shorstop Jack Wallaesa coming over to make the putout. Wallaesa then chased Judnich back toward second and threw to Second Baseman Cass Michaels, who made the putout. With Berardino halfway to second, Michaels and First Baseman Murrell Jones exchanged throws, with Wallaesa again coming over to make the final putout.

In either case, this sounds a lot more complicated than Friday's six-figure triple play. Retrosheet's play-by-play data gives some indication of what it might actually be:

BROWNS 2ND: Heath doubled; Witte doubled [Heath scored]; Judnich walked; Papish threw a wild pitch [Witte to third, Judnich to second]; Berardino reached on a fielder's choice that turned into a triple play [Witte out at home (third to catcher to third to catcher to shortstop), Judnich out at third (shortstop to second), Berardino out at second (second to first to second to first to shortstop)]; Newspapers confirm a string of 12 fielders in triple play; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  White Sox 1, Browns 1.

If that's true, that's a 5-2-5-2-6-4-3-4-3-6 triple play. I don't really care to see the 2016 White Sox try that, especially after years of watching the 2013-15 White Sox go to those lengths to complete a simple pickoff.