Though triple plays are somewhat rare, they do not fall into the category of astounding on-field events. According to the Society For American Baseball Research, there have been 691 triple plays in the majors from 1876 to the present day--the last one occurring at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 2013. As I sat down to write this blog, I began pondering the possibility of something far more unusual. Have there ever been four outs recorded on one play, I wondered.
A quadruple play...
Is that even possible?
Incredibly, the answer is YES.
Right Fielder Wilfredo Sanchez, the first player in Cuba to record 2,000 hits in his career, nearly accomplished this rare defensive feat during the 1970's. With the bases loaded and nobody out in a tie game, Sanchez made an extraordinary catch in right-center field. Believing that the ball was headed for the gap, runners on first and second strayed far past their respective points of origin. After recording the first out of the frame, Sanchez alertly fired to second base for a double play. The ball was then relayed to first, completing an inning-ending triple killing.
But the fun was just beginning...
The runner on third had tagged up as Sanchez caught the ball and crossed the plate BEFORE the third out of the sequence was recorded--therefore breaking the tie. Had the same runner left third before the ball was caught, the run would have been nullified and a fourth legal out would have been registered. (Plays of such nature are referred to as "timing plays.") The manager of Sanchez's team argued strenuously with the ruling and the four-man umpiring crew was somewhat divided. One official believed that the runner on third had left early, but he was overruled by his comrades. The run was counted.
Sanchez later commented of his brush with baseball immortality, "I became the only man to start a triple play which drove home the opposing team's winning run."
As for the elusive quadruple play, I could find no evidence that this has occurred at any level of professional play. Guess I'll just have to keep watching and waiting.