1920 was a momentous year for Cleveland baseball. While many people may recognize 1920 as the year Ray Chapman was tragically killed by a wild pitch, the year is also host of a more uplifting piece of history. It was during the 1920 World Series that Bill Wambsganss made the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.
Born on March 19th, 1894, Wambsganss had a strong connection to his faith and the sport of baseball. In fact, before Wambsganss was a second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, he studied briefly at a seminary in Indiana, and considered entering the clergy. However, Wambsganss’ father encouraged him to pursue his true passion, baseball, while still keeping his faith strong and an important part of his life. Wambsganss started off playing on several small minor league teams, practicing his skills and improving enough to be eventually placed with the Cleveland Indians. Playing along with Ray Chapman, Wambsganss became a valued player to Cleveland Indians, steadily improving and honing his skill. He and Chapman became a notable and rather famous duo.
However, the height of Wambsganss’ skill and fame came to fruition on October 5th, 1920. The Cleveland Indians were playing the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 5th game of the World Series. It was during this game that Wambsganss made his historical play.
In one swift play Wambsganss made a triple play, outing three players without the help of any teammates. He caught a line drive (outing the batter), tagged second base (outing the second base runner), and tagged the runner coming from first base. Got it? In a matter of seconds Wambsganss made MLB history. Perhaps the team was inspired by his momentum and sportsmanship, because the Indians would go on to win the World Series that year, gathering other historical records such as Elmer Smith’s grand slam (which was the first in World Series history)
Wambsganss continued to play baseball for a few more years before retiring to become a team manager for the Kansas City Club, All-American Girls Professional Baseball Leauge, and the Muskegon Lassies. While Wambsganss certainly had a fulfilling and enriched career, he was always remembered for his historic triple play. On December 10th, 1985 Wambsganss died due to heart failure, and he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. Shortly after his death, in 1988, Wambsganss was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Wambsganss’ passion and prowess for baseball is a true testimony to the gifts God give each of us. Never hesitate to pursue your passion!
Post written by Katie Karpinski