Friday, June 17, 2011


Jemile Weeks, off to the races...
It only took seven big-league games for Jemile Weeks, the speedy little rookie second baseman for the Oakland A's, to add his name to a very short list of players.

When Weeks hit his third career triple in his seventh big-league game, he became only the fourth player to do so (at least based on what we know from the Retrosheet data available in vagariously sortable form from Forman et fils).

There is a problem, however. Turns out that the other players who've managed this feat aren't exactly ones whose careers panned out (at least for the folks that we know about...without the play-by-play data prior to 1919, we won't know if Ty Cobb or Sam Crawford or any number of deadball-era players whose triples were as much about power as they were about speed got off to rip-roarin' start in the three-bagger department).

Prior to Jemile, here are the three chimps who hit three triples in their first seven games. We're going to do it in reverse order of the number of games required to do it....


Nope, not Mack Hillis. This is Ali Hillis, with whom getting to
third base might be more interesting--if she'd just lose
the pooch (and who the hell names a dog Chloe, anyway?)
Hillis was a career minor-league second baseman who played at total of twelve major-league games, one with the Yankees in 1924 and eleven with the Pirates in 1928. His three triples came in games three, four and seven. Called up by the Bucs due to an injury to starting second baseman Sparky Adams, Hillis was sent back out after the game in which he hit triple #3. He returned in September, but was given only two more starts. He wound up in the PCL in 1929 and would later spawn a great-granddaughter with nice curves and lamentable taste in canines.

Adam Piatt, in an all-too-characteristic pose...


Piatt was part of the crop of prospects that fueled the Oakland A's in the late 90s. In 1999 he set the Texas League on fire (.345, 1.155 OPS, 39 HRs, 90 XBH) and split the 2000 season with the A's and in AAA.  Called up to replace the struggling John Jaha (who'd hit 35 HRs the year before when the A's had their quintessential "Ken Phelps All-Star" squad and flirted with the playoffs), Piatt tripled in his fourth game and hit two in his fifth.

He wound up with five for the season, and hit exactly one more in his major league career, which ended in 2003.


Now, surely you've heard of Mike Gates?? Mike is the only guy whose early-career triples spree was spread over two years.

They can't take away Mike Gates'
baseball card, either.
Brought to fill out the Expos roster in early May 1981, Gates was inserted into a laugher on May 6th, a game in which Montreal (remember, there was actually a team in Montreal??) trailed 11-1. With the score 13-1 in the ninth, Mike banged an RBI triple off our old pal Juan Eichelberger. (Back in the day when men were men, Juan faced 39 batters, including five in the ninth before being dragged from the mound. Final score: Padres 13, Expos 5.)

More than a year later (June 18, 1982, to be exact) Gates played his second big league game, and tripled off Tom Filer in the seventh. Two days later, in his fourth game, he tripled off Doug Bird.

He had one more triple on what should have been a lucky day (7/11), but a few weeks later Gates and his .598 OPS were shipped back to the minors, never to return.

But he did hit three triples in his first four major league games. Cue Fred Astaire...

* * *

OF course, if you extend things out another game or two, you start to get some pretty good players who had three triples in those immediately post-umbilical moments. How about Carl Crawford (triples in games 5-7-8) or Carlos Beltran (triple in game 7, two triples in game 8)? Or Frank Baker?? (Sorry, wrong Frank Baker: this is the guy who played for the Indians in 1970.)

Carlos Bernier, upstaged by his team's mascot...
The three-triples-in-single-digit-major-league-games list has a few more names who make it in Game 9: Gil Flores, Buddy Hassett, Jeff Heath (who actually hit a lot of triples), and Gus Suhr.

But then there's the record holder--the man with four triples in his first nine major league games: Carlos Bernier. Bernier is the most unusual guy on the list because, back on May 2, 1953, he went into his ninth career game with one triple--and then proceed to hit three in one game.

This was the guy that Jemile was trying to tie yesterday, in his ninth big-league game. He came close--he got a double, and he helped his slumping team win two in a row for the first time in recent memory. But here is another cautionary moment for those of us ready to embrace Jemile: Bernier lasted only one season in the majors, hitting just .213. Like Mack Hillis before him, Carlos wound up back in the PCL, where he thrived for many seasons.

Let's all hope that Jemile beats the rap...