Friday, April 30, 2010

Rare unassisted triple plays: Cuban League's turn was more uncommon

An item in the latest USA TODAY Sports Weekly points out that on this day in baseball history (April 29, 2007) Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki completed one of the 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history, an accomplishment more rare than throwing a perfect game.

The Cuban League has it's own history with the uncommon baseball feat, as author Jorge Figueredo reminded me today in an email.

On Dec. 2, 1918, Baldomero "Merito" Acosta completed an unassisted triple play in Cuban League play, but what he did was even more rare than what Tulowitzki and 14 other major leaguers have done.


Acosta did it as an outfielder. All 15 major league player to have accomplished this were infielders -- eight shortstops, five second basemen and two first basemen.

Figueredo's Spanish-language book, Beisbol Cubano: A Un Paso de las Grandes Ligas, 1878-1961, describes the play. I'll translate.

With Acosta playing center field for Habana and Almendares at the plate, Joseito Rodriguez led off the eighth inning with a triple. Francisco "Canilla" Rivas followed with a walk and "Strike" Gonzalez was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

After Habana pitcher Pastor Pareda walked Jose Maria Fernandez to drive in a run, Oscar "Barriguilla" Rodriguez hit a line shot to center. But Acosta made a great running catch for the first out and ran straight to second to step on the bag before Rivas could get back for out No. 2. Fernandez, who had been running from first, tried to get back but Acosta chased him down and tagged him out for the final out of the inning.

Acosta (right with Adolfo Luque) played 12 seasons in the Cuban League for Habana, Almendares and Marianao, and was elected into the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. He managed Marianao to the pennant in 1922-23. He also was a part owner of Marianao and later of the Havana Cubans.

Acosta played five major league seasons with Washington (1913-16) and the Philadelphia Athletics (1918).

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