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Today in Cubs history: The last time the Cubs turned a triple play at Wrigley Field

It’s not often a triple play happens the way this one did, either.

Triple plays are rare. There have been 733 in MLB history, which makes them about twice as common as no-hitters or cycles, but that’s still unusual — there haven’t been any yet in 2023, though there were six in 2022.

The Cubs last turned one in the pandemic 2020 season, July 29 at Cincinnati [VIDEO].

As you can see in the video, though, Kris Bryant didn’t actually catch that ball, it bounced on the ground first. But it was ruled a catch and as noted, that wasn’t reviewable and the play went for three outs. The Cubs lost that game 12-7.

All told, the Cubs have turned 30 triple plays since 1900 (and had 11 others before then). In addition to the one noted above, the Cubs have turned three others over the last four decades: August 8, 1985 vs. the Cardinals at St. Louis, July 9, 1986 vs. the Giants at San Francisco and May 10, 1997, also vs. the Giants at San Francisco.

But they haven’t completed a triple play at Wrigley Field since 1983. so let’s look at that game. 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.

The second of those walks was a rarity, as 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 at Wrigley Field. 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.

There have been two triple plays turned against the Cubs at Wrigley Field since the last time the Cubs did it there: June 6, 1989 by the Mets and May 8, 1998 by the Giants. The Cubs won both those games and oddly enough, both came in Cubs playoff seasons.

Wikipedia says a 5-4-3 triple play is the most common among all combinations of fielders turning one, but it’s not very common to have it be an around-the-horn ground ball like that one.

The last Cubs triple play at Wrigley Field happened 40 years ago today, Thursday, June 2, 1983.