Paddy started talking before I even set my coffee down, “I heard a couple of guys on the radio talking about a very unusual baseball triple play, but I only caught the tail end of it so I missed the details. Do you by any chance know what I’m talking about?”
“I might,” I allowed. “There’s a story making the rounds about a triple play during which no one on the defensive team touched the ball. Is that the one you mean?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s it!” he excitedly said. “Can you describe it?”
“I can,” I acknowledged, “but let’s take it like Johnny Cash’s homemade Cadillac, one piece at a time.”
“OK,” Paddy agreed.
“Obviously, because it was a triple play, there was no one out,” I began.
“I kind of figured that part out myself,” Paddy snarled.
I ignored his comment and carried on, saying, “And there were runners on first and second; maybe even first, second and third.”
“Got it,” Paddy said, reverting to a reasonable tone of voice..
“The batter hit a towering fly ball in the infield,” I said, and then paused for a sip of coffee.
“All right!” Paddy exclaimed, “Infield fly rule, so the batter is out. That’s one.”
“Correct,” I agreed. “That’s exactly how it all started. I’m impressed you got that right away.”
“OK,” Paddy said, “give me a couple of minutes while I try to figure out the next one.”
I waited while he sipped coffee and pondered.
After a few moments he asked, “Was interference involved.”
“Nope,” I said.
Paddy pondered some more and then asked, “Did the guy on first start running when the ball was hit and pass the runner on second?”
“Very good,” I praised him. “That was out number two.”
“Give me some more time,” he said.
This time he took longer and sipped more coffee before admitting, “I can’t come up with the third out.”
“When the runner on second realized that the runner from first had passed him,” I explained, “he stepped off the bag and the ball came down and hit him. So he’s out because he was hit by a batted ball in fair territory while he was off a base.”
“But,” Paddy inquired, “wouldn’t the ball be dead when the infield fly rule was called?”
“No,” I assured him, “on an infield fly call the ball is in play and runners advance at their own peril, which those two guys learned the hard way.”
“Where did this happen? Paddy queried.
“I’m not certain it really did,” I admitted. “The guy who told me about it said that it happened in some obscure minor league, but I haven’t been able to corroborate it.”
“But it could happen,” Paddy observed.
“Theoretically, it definitely could,” I assured him.
Paddy pondered a few more minutes and then asked, “Who would get credit for the three putouts?”
“Good question, Paddy.” I told him. “I assume it would be the shortstop or the second baseman, whoever was closer to the play,”
“It couldn’t get much weirder than that,” Paddy observed.
“Sure it could,” I said. “Suppose the bases had been loaded and the runner on third took off for home just like the runner on first did when he took off for second. If the runner from third touched the plate before the ball came down and hit the runner who left second, then the run would have counted.”
“That’s enough for now,” Paddy said, “I’m getting a headache.”
“Fair enough,” I countered, “but one of the reasons I love baseball is that strange things like this happen. For example, a week or so ago there was a 1-8 putout.”
“You mean the pitcher threw the ball to the centerfielder who made a putout?” he queried, his headache obviously abating. “How the hell could that happen?”
“With a runner on first,” I began, “the batter bunted. The first baseman moved to field the ball and the second baseman went over to cover first. For some reason the shortstop didn’t cover second.”
“OK, I’m with you so far,” Paddy said.
“The pitcher fielded the ball and threw it to second,” I explained, “but because no one was covering the bag, the ball sailed into the outfield. However, the centerfielder was playing shallow, caught the ball, and beat the runner to second for the putout.”
“And this one definitely happened,” Paddy queried.
“It really did,” I said as I got up and left before Paddy again started to complain about headaches.