NEW YORK (AP) -- The Yankees handing out World Series rings is
almost a yearly occurrence. Complete games by both pitchers might
be odd in this era of, but it's happened two straight days at
So how about a really rare feat?
Randy Velarde accomplished about the rarest of all in baseball,
turning just the 10th unassisted triple play in the regular season
as the Oakland Athletics beat New York 4-1 Monday.
"I had it played perfectly," Velarde said. "Both guys took
off, it was a soft liner. I caught it. Tag, tag, that's it."
As simple as it sounds and as it looked, Velarde's play happens
less often than a four-homer game, a perfect game or just about any
other individual feat.
And it's happened twice to Velarde, although the first came in a
spring-training game on April 17, 1995, when he did it to Los
Angeles while playing shortstop for the Yankees.
"The chances of that happening?" Velarde asked. "You have a
better chance of being hit by lightning."
But it did. With runners on first and second and a full count on
Shane Spencer in the bottom of the sixth, Yankees manager Joe Torre
sent the runners in motion and Spencer hit a soft line drive to
"As soon as the ball was hit, I knew it was a triple play,"
Oakland pitcher Omar Olivares said. "I saw Randy catch the ball
and how far the runners were off base and started walking to the
dugout. It was pretty easy."
Velarde caught the ball, tagged out Jorge Posada, who reached
first base on Velarde's error, then stepped on second to beat Tino
Martinez, who was nearly at third base. It was the first unassisted
triple play in the majors since July 8, 1994, when Boston's John
Valentin turned one against Seattle.
Velarde nonchalantly flipped the ball to second base umpire Rick
Reed -- not quite grasping the magnitude of the play -- and walked to
the dugout. The ball will be shipped to the Hall of Fame and
Velarde said he would be willing to send his glove as well.
"They better wait until I break in a new one," he warned.
"But it would be an honor."
It is Oakland's seventh triple play and first since April 7,
1996, against Detroit. The Athletics had never turned an unassisted
triple play in their history.
Velarde's feat overshadowed the Yankees' World Series ring
ceremony before the game and Andy Pettitte's two-hitter -- the least
he's allowed in 15 career complete games.
The Yankees celebrated their third championship in four years,
receiving their rings from the most decorated player in baseball
history, Yogi Berra, who won a record 10 World Series titles as a
"Everybody was very excited about getting the rings and
bringing back the memory of last year and how satisfying it was,"
Torre said. "It was pretty emotional."
There was little excitement between the pregame ceremony and
Velarde's play in the sixth inning. Bernie Williams went 2-for-4
with an RBI triple and a solo homer.
Pettitte (4-2) kept his pitches down in the strike zone. He
induced 17 groundball outs -- including nine to second baseman Chuck
Knoblauch, who didn't commit an error on 11 total chances.
"I wanted to go out and just get groundballs," Pettitte said.
"I felt like I was doing that in my last start and I wanted to
stay in that groove. I feel like I'm locked in pretty good right
The only hit Pettitte allowed until the ninth inning was Jason
Giambi's ground-rule double with two outs in the first. After
hitting Olmedo Saenz with one out in the fourth, Pettitte retired
15 straight batters before Velarde hit a solo homer, becoming the
first player to homer and turn an unassisted triple play in the
Derek Jeter's RBI double in the third inning off Omar Olivares
(3-6) broke a scoreless tie and was New York's first run since the
sixth inning Saturday against Boston. The Yankees were shut out by
Pedro Martinez on Sunday night, when the Boston ace outdueled Roger
After Paul O'Neill walked to lead off the sixth, Williams hit a
shoulder-high fastball to the wall in right-center. Right fielder
Matt Stairs jumped, but the ball ricocheted off the wall and rolled
past center fielder Terrence Long, allowing O'Neill to score and
Williams to get a triple.
After Martinez was hit on an 0-2 pitch, Velarde's error on
Posada's grounder allowed the third run to score and set up the
"I let the team down with that error," Velarde said. "It was
a routine grounder. I have to make that play. I'd take the double
play over the triple play.
"It was historical. But on the losing end of the game, it
doesn't have much meaning."
|Derek Jeter drove in one of the Yankees' four runs Monday.|
An unassisted triple play also occurred in Game 5 of the
1920 World Series, when Cleveland's Bill Wambsganss turned it
against Brooklyn. ... The Yankees last hit into a triple play on
June 17, 1999, against Texas. ... There were no relievers needed in
the last two games at Yankee Stadium. ... Pettitte's only shutout
came July 5, 1997, in a six-hitter at Toronto. ... Olivares allowed
four runs and six hits in his 15th career complete game. ...
Martinez singled in the eighth to snap an 0-for-15 slump. ... There
was a moment of silence at 3 p.m. for Memorial Day.
NY Yankees Clubhouse
Ratto: Randy Velarde, please take a bow
NY Yankees 4
Tampa Bay 1
Chi. White Sox 4
St. Louis 3
Chicago Cubs 0
San Francisco 7
Los Angeles 4
NY Mets 1
San Diego 3
A lot of hard work has helped Andy Pettitte get back on track.
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