Former Cuban Leaguer (Villa Clara) Yuniesky Betancourt earned a small piece of major league fame on August 15, 2011 simply by being the right man at the right place at the right time. Betancourt, now in the middle stages of a rather mediocre big league career that began in Seattle, was the fortunate middle man (literally) in a rare Milwaukee Brewers triple play keyed by some rather sloppy Los Angeles base running. The play unfolded as follows:
James Looney (Los Angeles) lined a Randy Wolf delivery back up the middle where second baseman Josh Wilson gloved it, then tossed to shortstop Betancourt, who began a routine double play (Betancourt stepped on second for a force out and relayed to Prince Fielder at first for the twin killing). Unfortunately for the already victimized Dodgers, base runner Matt Kemp (originally on second) unaccountably kept on chugging toward home plate where he was gunned down by a second relay from Fielder to catcher George Kottaras. A rare 4-to-6-to-3-to-2 scoring play, thanks mainly to the current edition of the Dodgers looking more and more like their infamous sad sack Brooklyn forerunners of the 1930s.
The involvement of Betancourt in this base-running-goof-turned-into-history has led to some unwarranted speculation and false reports about the vagabond Cuban perhaps being the first of his countrymen involved in a triple-killing. Of course he was not. In fact, a half century back a whole trio of Cubanos were all involved at the same time in what has often been written about as the first and so far only “All-Cuban” triple play.
The setting was Washington’s Griffith Stadium, the teams involved were the home town Senators and the Kansas City Athletics, and the date was July 23, 1960. Here are the details.
In the top of the third frame with Washington holding a 3-1 lead and Kansas City threatening to cut the gap, outfielder Whitey Herzog stood at the plate with a full count, Jerry Lumpe rested on first, and Bill Tuttle was anchored as the base runner at second. Herzog lined the next pitch straight into the glove of pitcher Pedro Ramos (one out); Ramos whirled and heaved to first baseman Julio Becquer (doubling up Lumpe for out number two); Becquer then tossed down to second where shortstop José Valdivielso tripled up the slow-footed Tuttle. Presto, an improbable all-Cuban triple play.
“Pistol Pete” Ramos threw a dizzying record number of home run balls during his colorful big league sojourn in the 1950s and 1960s, including one memorable “gopher pitch” to Mickey Mantle in Yankee Stadium that resulted in a blast of near Josh Gibson-like proportions. But in later years Ramos most likely held much fonder memories of the single pitch he tossed to Herzog to launch one of the brightest moments for his countrymen in the annals of the Golden Age Fifties.