What is a Triple Play in Baseball?

what is a triple play in baseball

What’s the rarest thing to take place in baseball? If you thought it was throwing a perfect game, you would be wrong. The rarest thing to take place in baseball is a triple play. So what is a triple play, how does it generally happen, what is an unassisted triple play, why the play is rare, and more? Find out below?


What is a Triple Play in Baseball?

A triple play in baseball occurs when three outs take place on one continuous play. For a triple play to happen, there must be at least two runners on the bases with no outs. Once there are two runners on base with no outs, there becomes a chance that a triple play can occur.


How Do Triple Plays Generally Happen in a Game?

Triple plays in baseball tend to occur via a lineout to an infielder who can record the next two outs at the baserunner’s base. For example, a team might run a hit-and-run baseball play where the runners take off to the next base on a pitch. If the batter lines out to the shortstop, a triple play can occur quickly since the runners won’t get to their bases quickly enough.


Outside of line drives to an infielder, triple plays tend to start via a groundout to third base. The third baseman can tag third, throw to second, and then have the second baseman throw to first to complete the triple play. As of July 2021, the last triple play around the diamond came on June 20, 2021, with the Oakland Athletics playing the New York Yankees. 


Why are Triple Plays Rare?

Triple plays in baseball are rare due to too many factors that need to take place:


  1. You need to have no outs and at least two runners on the bases.
  2. You need the baserunners to be one after another, which requires the baserunners to move up on a hit or grounder, which helps set up a potential triple play.
  3. You need a line drive to a fielder to turn a triple play or a hard ground ball to third base to start the triple play. However, a triple play can take place grounding the ball to any base, but it becomes more difficult to turn.


Since so much has to be set up to turn the play, the triple play is the rarest baseball thing to see when catching a game.


How Does it Compare to a Double Play?

A double play, for example, has fewer elements that need to take place on the field. First, you can have zero or one outs on the bases. Second, you don’t need the baserunners next to each other to complete a double play. Think of a baserunner on first and third, and the double play goes to second base and the first baseman. Third, you have more time to turn a double play via a grounder to a fielder, so you don’t need a hard grounder or liner to start the play.


When Did the First Triple Pay in Major League Baseball History?

The first triple play in baseball took place on July 14, 1901. The game was the Milwaukee Brewers vs. the Chicago White Stockings. Jiggs Donahue, Billy Gilbert, and Bill Friel of the Brewers were part of the first official triple play in MLB history. 


What is the Baseball Scorekeeping for This?

The official score abbreviation for a triple play is GITP. GITP stands for grounded into a triple play, so it’s a simple way to document that play on the scorecard. 


What is an Unassisted Triple Play?

The rarest type of triple play is the unassisted one. An unassisted triple play occurs when one player completes all three outs on a single play. The last time an unassisted triple play took place, as of July 2021, was in 2009, with the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the New York Mets in the ninth inning. Phillies’ second baseman caught a line drive, touched second base for the second out, and then tagged out the baserunner between first and second base to record the third out.


How Many Triple Plays Have There Been in the World series?

As of July 2021, there have been 15 triple plays during the World Series, according to Baseball-Reference.


Has There Ever Been a Quadruple Play in Baseball?

Since there are only three outs in an inning, teams can’t turn a quadruple play in baseball. However, there are times where a pitcher can technically record four strikeouts on three recorded outs. If you see a pitcher strike out four hitters in an inning via the box score, it means that one of the strikeouts got away from the catcher, and the runner was able to reach first base before the throw got there.



In summary, a triple play is the rarest thing a player and or fan can witness during a baseball game. The unassisted triple play is the rarest feat to occur, so seeing this live will always be memorable. As of July 2021, there have been 727 triple plays, according to the SABR Triple Play database.


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