26 Jul

triples, anyone?

Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, as fast as anybody in the game, now and probably ever, has 30 career triples as he nears the end of his fifth full big league season. That might sound like a lot until you check the all-time record: 309, by Sam Crawford. Three-zero-nine. Don’t think Billy is gonna threaten that. Crawford, who played in the early 1900s, had 26 triples in one season; the single season record is 36, set in 1912. Hamilton’s best in a season is 11. Last year’s MLB leader was Charlie Blackmon with 14. No one in the last 90 seasons has gotten as many as 24. So, where did all the triples go? The decline of the three-bagger, such an exciting play, is telling commentary on how much the game has changed since Crawford roamed the basepaths a hundred years ago. Ballparks are smaller now, for one thing. Players are bigger and stronger and much more inclined to swing for home runs. (Note: Hamilton, who weighs 160 pounds, has 20 career homers.) Speed is still important but not a necessary skill. Defense has improved and gotten more strategic. All of these factors have combined to make triples a rare treat, akin to seeing a shooting star – or a street without a pothole. A triple usually involves a weird carom or a collision of outfielders. The only man among the top 20 in career triples who played as recently as the 1960s is Stan Musial. He finished with 177. The only active player with more than 100 is Jose Reyes, who’s near the end of his career. Hamilton, if he plays 10 more years (and improves as a hitter), might approach 100, but that would be well short of the record among Mississippi natives. That belongs to Ellisville’s Buddy Myer, who hit 130 in an outstanding career spanning 1925-41. Starkville native Hughie Critz, a Myer contemporary, tripled 95 times. No. 3 is Gee Walker (1931-45) of Gulfport with 76. Grenada’s Dave Parker retired in 1991 with 75. Even with his great wheels, Hamilton might not catch any of that bunch.

Mike Christensen

Mike Christensen

A long-time sports fan and 30-year newspaper veteran muses on all things baseball in Mississippi. Contact: mwchristens@gmail.com
Mike Christensen

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