Brooks Robinson’s Dubious Record!

Brooks Robinson’s Dubious Record!

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 Brooks Robinson’s Dubious Record!

We all remember Brooks Robinson as a great defensive third baseman, possibly the best of all time. But there’s one record he’s saddled with I bet he’d like to see broken. Believe it or not, it has to do with Triple Plays!

Anytime you hear the name “Brooks Robinson” in the same sentence with “Triple Plays,” you’d probably be thinking about how many “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” started from his position at third. Well, you’d be wrong. Brooks – the recipient of 16 straight Gold Gloves – was involved in three defensive triple plays during his Hall-of-Fame career. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Over his 23-year career (1955-’77), Brooks Robinson set a record for hitting into – are you ready for this? – not one…not two…not three…but FOUR triple plays, more than any other major leaguer! They all occurred in a 10-year period between 1958 and 1967.

It all started 59 years ago this week, June 2, 1958. In the bottom of the sixth inning with two Orioles’ teammates on first and second base, Brooks lined into a triple play when Senators’ shortstop Rocky Bridges snared his hard-hit line drive, stepped on second, and then relayed the ball to first.

Just why did Brooks Robinson hit into so many Triple Plays? Well, for starters, if you could design a player likely to set this record, Brooks would fit the bill. He played a long time without any significant injuries. And in spite of his quickness at third, he possessed very mediocre foot speed. Plus, he played for Earl Weaver and his legendary “three-run homer” approach to the game. Weaver made sure his rosters were offensively stacked with on-base guys. So Brooks frequently came to the plate with multiple men on base, the necessary ingredients for a Triple Play.

To be fair, though, in Brooks Robinson’s case, it’s probably just a statistical anomaly more than anything else. For various reasons, it’s highly unlikely this dubious record will ever be broken…or so says the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR):

“There have been less than 700 triple plays recorded since the 1870s.  The frequency of TPs has gone down from about 3 per 10,000 innings at the turn of the century to about 1 per 10,000 innings for the last several decades.  Let’s put that into perspective.  If a ball player played 20 seasons, they would be involved in approximately 3,000 games or about 25,000 innings.  That means, on average, a 20-year player would witness about three Triple Plays during their career. Not necessarily participate in the fielding or batting on the specific triple play; merely witness. But Brooks hit into four Triple Plays by himself.”

Another way to compare this feat is to look at the other players who have hit into multiple Triple Plays. Historically, there have been only three players who hit into three, and none of them played after 1930. As a matter of fact, all three are from the Dead Ball Era: George Sisler, Joe Start, and Deacon McGuire. And with no current player having hit into more than one, it doesn’t appear with record is going anywhere soon.

Perhaps we’re being too hard on Brooks. Further research reveals that only the first and the last, a 5-4-3 ground out that killed a rally on August 6, 1967, are what could be described as a “typical.” At least two of the others involved what might be called “flukes,” with one occurring when Brooks slipped rounding third; and another when Luis Aparico made an ill-advised attempt to score from third.

To set the record straight, the Orioles actually won three of these four games. And Brooks produced exceptionally well in his other at-bats. Eliminate the four triple plays, and he had 10 hits in 13 at-bats (.769), scored four times, and drove in four runs. Under normal conditions, those would be considered very good days.

Regardless, this is a record that he’ll likely be stuck with for quite some time…and one he’d likely be glad to be rid of!

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Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Triple Play Wikipedia page; and from article on MLB.com: Triphttp://m.mlb.com/news/article/128131088/triple-play-threat-brooks-robinson-holds-infamous-mark/.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

6 Comments

  1. Phil Ellenbecker · June 9, 2017 Reply

    Speaking of triple, another unlikely record for slow-of-foot Brooks: He’s tied with Willie Mays for most triples in All-Star Games with three each.

  2. RichGiandana · June 9, 2017 Reply

    I always loved watching Brooks Robinson play third base. He was amazing! He also was unique with his short-billed batting helmet.

    I had no idea about his having hit into 4 triple plays. Wow!

    Thanks again for great stuff, Gary!

    Rich

  3. John Leichliter · June 10, 2017 Reply

    Great research, I had never even thought about someone hitting into that many triple plays. What a great piece of baseball history to add to my trivia questions. Thanks for this.

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