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A's Velarde Steals the Show

Baseball: Second baseman turns only the 10th unassisted triple play in the regular season.

May 30, 2000|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — World Series rings and complete games by both pitchers got overshadowed Monday by one of the rarest feats in baseball, an unassisted triple play.

Second baseman Randy Velarde of the Oakland Athletics turned the 10th unassisted triple play in the regular season in a 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees Monday.

"I had it played perfectly," Velarde said. "Both guys took off, it was a soft liner. I caught it. Tag, tag, that's it."

As simple as it sounds and as it looked, Velarde's play happens less often than a four-homer game, a perfect game or just about any other individual feat.

And it's happened twice to Velarde, although the first came in a 1995 spring-training game, when he did it to the Dodgers while playing shortstop for the Yankees.

"The chances of that happening?" Velarde asked. "You have a better chance of being hit by lightning."

But it did. With runners on first and second and a full count on Shane Spencer in the bottom of the sixth, Yankee Manager Joe Torre sent the runners in motion and Spencer hit a soft line drive to Velarde's right. Velarde caught the ball, tagged out Jorge Posada, who had reached first base on an error by Velarde, then stepped on second to beat Tino Martinez, who was nearly at third base.

It was the first unassisted triple play in the majors since July 8, 1994, when Boston's John Valentin turned one against Seattle.

Velarde nonchalantly flipped the ball to second base umpire Rick Reed--not quite grasping the magnitude of the play--and walked to the dugout. The ball will be shipped to the Hall of Fame.

It is Oakland's seventh triple play but first unassisted.

Velarde also hit a solo homer, becoming the first player to ever turn an unassisted triple play and homer in a game.

Before the game, the Yankees celebrated their third championship in four years by receiving their Series rings from Yogi Berra.

Andy Pettitte (4-2) pitched a two-hitter for the Yankee.

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Over in an Instant

A description of the 10 unassisted regular-season triple plays in major league baseball:

* July 19, 1909--Cleveland shortstop Neal Ball, against Boston. Ball caught Amby McConnell's line drive at second base, touched second to retire Heinie Wagner, who was on his way to third, then tagged Jake Stahl as he came up to second.

* Sept. 14, 1923--Boston first baseman George Burns against Cleveland. Burns caught Frank Brower's line drive, tagged Walt Lutzke off first base and ran toward second and slid into the bag before Riggs Stephenson could return from third base.

* Oct. 6, 1923--Boston shortstop Ernie Padgett against Philadelphia. Padgett caught Walter Holke's line drive, stepped on second base to retire Cotton Tierney and then tagged Cliff Lee before he could return to first base.

* May 7, 1925--Pittsburgh shortstop Glenn Wright against St. Louis. Wright caught Jim Bottomley's line drive, stepped on second to retire Jimmy Cooney, and tagged Roger Hornsby coming from first to end the game.

* May 30, 1927--Chicago shortstop Jim Cooney against Pittsburgh. Cooney took Paul Waner's line drive, stepped on second to retire Lloyd Waner and then tagged Clyde Barnhart coming from first.

* May 31, 1927--Detroit first baseman Johnny Neun against Cleveland. Neun caught Homer Summa's line drive, tagged Charlie Jamieson between first and second and touched second base before Glenn Myatt could return.

* July 30, 1968--Washington shortstop Ron Hansen against Cleveland. Hansen caught Joe Azcue's line drive, stepped on second to double Dave Nelson and tagged Russ Snyder going toward second.

* Sept. 20, 1992--Philadelphia second baseman Mickey Morandini against Pittsburgh. Morandini caught Jeff King's line drive up the middle, stepped on second to double Andy Van Slyke and tagged Barry Bonds, who was standing near second base.

* July 8, 1994--Boston shortstop John Valentin against Seattle. Valentin caught Marc Newfield's line drive, stepped on second base to double Mike Blowers and tagged Keith Mitchell.

* May 29, 2000--Oakland second baseman Randy Velarde against the Yankees. Velarde caught Shane Spencer's line drive, tagged Jorge Posada between first and second and touched second base before Tino Martinez could return.

Note: On Oct. 10, 1920, Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss, in the fifth game of the World Series against Brooklyn, caught Willie Mitchell's line drive, stepped on second to retire Pete Kilduff and tagged Otto Miller coming from first for an unassisted triple play.

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