In the comments, a couple of people mentioned that video of this play was in the Cubs’ 1983 highlight video. My friend and Cubs By The Numbers co-author Kasey Ignarski told me he had this video. I asked him to send me a copy, and now I can share the video of the triple play with you.
Let me set this up first. The Pirates had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning and the Cubs didn’t score in the bottom of that inning.
In the top of the second, Steve Trout walked Dale Berra and Junior Ortiz to put Pirates runners on first and second.
Now, before I go on, let me tell you how weird that second walk was. Ortiz was almost impossible to walk. He had 200 plate appearances in 1983 and drew four walks.
Anyway, that brought up the Pirates’ pitcher, Rick Rhoden. Normally, you’d think of that as a bunt situation -- especially back in the 1980s. But Rhoden was a pretty good-hitting pitcher. He hit .238/.253/.323 lifetime with nine home runs in 761 at-bats, and once served as a DH while playing for the Yankees. Not hitting for himself when he pitched, but as the DH in a game where someone else pitched. He went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly.
Instead of squaring away to bunt, Rhoden swung away, and this happened:
And there you have it, the last triple play turned by the Chicago Cubs. Rhoden was a decent hitter, but slow on the bases. As you can see, the play at first wasn’t particularly close.
Ryne Sandberg hit a two-run homer off Rhoden in the eighth inning and the Cubs won the game 3-2. It was the second win of a seven-game winning streak and the beginning of a run where the Cubs went 21-11. When they beat the Expos 7-4 on July 3, they were one game under .500 and two games out of first place in the N.L. East. That team wasn’t really that good and went 33-52 the rest of the way.
Little did we know at the time what was waiting for us just one year later, breaking a 39-year postseason drought.
And we still await the Cubs turning another triple play at home.