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Fort Wayne Sports History: Bill Wambsganss pulls World Series triple play

Fete becomes a burden to second baseman in later years

Monday, August 12, 2013 - 6:59 pm

Editor's Note: This is the 12th in a series of excepts from the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History.

October 10, 1920

In 1920, Bill Wambsganss pulls off the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.

Bill Wambsganss played in the major leagues for 13 years, but he has become known for only one thing.

Wambsganss became a baseball legend during the 1920 World Series when, as a second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, he completed an unassisted triple play against the Brooklyn Dodgers. During the fifth inning of Game 5 with baserunners on first and second, a sharp liner was hit to Wambsganss who caught it, stepped on second and then tagged the runner coming from first. It's the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.

``The only thing anybody seems to remember is that once I made an unassisted triple play in a World Series,'' Wambsganss once wrote. ``Many don't even remember the team I was on, or the position I played, or anything. Just Wambsganss – unassisted triple play. You'd think I was born the day before and died the day after.''

Following the World Series, Cleveland fans presented Wambsganss a medal to honor the triple play, but he lost it the following April while traveling by train.

Wambsganss was a great defensive player but also a pretty fair hitter. He finished with a career .259 average in 1,492 games. He hit a career-best .325 in 54 games with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1926. His best season during 10 years with Cleveland was .295 in 1918. His best season was probably 1924 when he hit .275 with career-highs with 174 hits and 93 runs scored.

Though he was born in Cleveland, Wambsganss grew up in Fort Wayne when his Lutheran minister father was transferred. He started to follow in his father's footsteps at Concordia College but decided to become a baseball player instead.

He dropped to the minors after 1926 and retired as a player in 1932.

Wambsganss later came back to Fort Wayne to manage the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1945 and 1946. He was inducted into the Fort Wayne Oldtimers Baseball Association's Hall of Fame in 1962 and died Dec. 8, 1985, in Lakewood, Ohio, at age 91.

For more information on the book "Fort Wayne Sports History'' written by News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring visit www.amauth.com or www.blakesebring.com.