08/10/2003 9:48 PM ET
Furcal turns unassisted triple play
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By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
unassisted triple plays
ST. LOUIS -- When Rafael Furcal leaped and grabbed a Woody Williams liner in the fifth inning of Sunday night's game between the Braves and Cardinals at Busch Stadium, he created a play that will be shown on highlight clips for years to come.
But when he stepped on second base to retire Mike Matheny and then sprinted to tag Orlando Palmeiro he completed the 12th unassisted triple play in Major League history (11th in regular-season play) and earned himself a spot in baseball lore.
"For me this is very exciting," Furcal said. "Because you don't get to see that kind of play every day."
Furcal's unassisted triple play was the first one in the Majors since Oakland's Randy Velarde turned one against the Yankees on May 29, 2000. The Braves shortstop said he remembered the highlights from Velarde's accomplishment and hoped he'd one day have the opportunity to duplicate the rare feat.
"I'm very happy because this is something I might not be able to do again," Furcal said of the play that was aided by the fact Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had the hit-and-run in effect.
"More guts than brains," La Russa said. "I've been accused of that many times. I thought everything was perfect. Woody handles the bat great. You've got a force play at third base, with not a good runner. I thought it was the play to make. That's one of the risks, you hit the ball on a line in the infield."
After Furcal caught Williams' liner, Braves second baseman Marcus Giles yelled for Furcal to throw the ball to him at second base.
"He said, 'Give me the ball, give me the ball,'" Furcal said in reference to Giles. "I said, 'No, I've got a chance to make it myself.'"
It was the Braves' first triple play since they turned one against the Marlins on May 11, 2000. The Cardinals, who hadn't hit into an unassisted triple play since May 7, 1925, had also hit into a triple play against the Rockies on April 10 this season.
"It's an aggressive move," Matheny said. "Woody put a good swing on it. (Furcal) was just playing the exact spot he needed to be. We've seen some aggressive things get us going and that was just a case where it could have done just that."
Furcal actually manufactured the situation by not covering second base right away after pitcher Horacio Ramirez had fielded a Palmeiro sacrifice bunt attempt and threw to a vacant bag. Three pitches later, Williams hit the line drive that turned historic.
"With Vinny (Braves third baseman Vinny Castilla) charging on the bunt, I started to go to cover third," Furcal said. "I just didn't get back. But I make a mistake and then we turn a triple play. So everything is all right."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.