Ron Hansen’s triple play

Written by: Janey Murray

On July 30, 1968, Ron Hansen accomplished something only seven other players in the American or National League had.

While playing shortstop in a game for the Washington Senators, Hansen caught a line drive from Indians catcher Joe Azcue, stepped on the second base bag and tagged the runner coming from first, securing the eighth unassisted triple play in AL/NL history.

Shortly afterward, he donated his glove from the play to the Hall of Fame. Fifty-three years later, he got the chance to see the glove on display in the Museum’s One for the Books exhibit.

“I’ve had people tell me about it, but I had never seen it, so now I’ve seen it,” Hansen said when he visited the Hall of Fame on Oct. 5, 2021. “That’ll be interesting to tell my grandkids and great grandkids about it.”

Hansen’s unassisted triple play marked the first time the feat had occurred in over 41 years, with the previous one being made by the Tigers’ Johnny Neun in 1927. After Hansen’s, another such play would not be recorded until 1992.

“It was a good memory of being in the right place at the right time and executing a play that you really don’t think about – it just comes naturally,” Hansen said. “I went back in the dugout, and they said, ‘Hey, you just made an unassisted triple play.’ I had really never heard of an unassisted triple play before, or hadn’t thought about it.”

Later in life, Hansen and Neun would form a bond thanks to their shared accomplishment. Following their playing careers, when both were living in Baltimore, the two former infielders reconnected.

“Johnny was still living then, and when we’d see each other, we’d talk about his triple play and my triple play,” Hansen said. “They were completely different, but it was interesting just to recall.”

Hansen played in the big leagues for 15 seasons with the Orioles, White Sox, Yankees, Royals and Senators, winning the 1960 AL Rookie of the Year Award and earning two All-Star selections. Though he never won a Gold Glove Award, Hansen posted Defensive Wins Above Replacement figures of better than 3.5 in 1963 and 1964 – two of only six such seasons for shortstops in the 1960s.

In 1964, Hansen became one of only eight players in history – through the 2021 season – with a Defensive WAR of 4.0 or better and an Offensive WAR of 4.0 or better in the same season. Five of the other seven players are Hall of Famers: Dave Bancroft, Gary Carter, Frankie Frisch, Brooks Robinson (who did it twice) and Joe Tinker.

Hansen had visited Cooperstown multiple times before when his teams participated in the Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field, but since the trips were planned during the baseball season, there was never enough time left to visit the Museum.

For a baseball lifer like Hansen, who stayed in the game long after he was done playing, finally getting the chance to set foot in the Hall of Fame was a special experience.

“When I finished playing, I ended up coaching in the big leagues for 12 years, and then I ended up scouting for almost 20 years with the Yankees and Phillies, so I’ve stayed around baseball pretty much my entire life, and I have been connected with and seen a lot of these players that have done things,” Hansen said. “Some of them are here, and it brings back good memories of guys that I knew were going to be good players and people that I played against and with and saw as coaches and scouts.”

In particular, Hansen’s visit brought to mind one third baseman enshrined in the Plaque Gallery, with whom he teamed up on the left side of the Orioles infield during his first five big league seasons.

“I played with a fellow from Little Rock, Ark., and his name was Brooks Robinson,” Hansen said. “I knew from the way he played the game, he was headed for the Hall of Fame.”

Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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