Boston Red Sox history of triples inspired by Mookie Betts

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Mookie Betts
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Mookie Betts /

Boston Red Sox players rarely lead the league in triples. Mookie Betts’ recent two triple game is unique, but don’t look for a Red Sox triples leader this season.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts hitting a pair of triples in a game is rare in today’s brand of baseball, but two in a row is something unique. Hitting two home runs or even three in a game gets noticed, but the swing from the heels mentality makes the home run artistically cheap. A triple is not. In most instances, it requires good hitting combined with good base running, but there can be a degree of luck.

Baseball parks and game style are less conducive to triples as they once were. I remember my first game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and the batting cage was stored in center field. The old Polo Grounds had a short right and left field and center was almost 500 feet. The original Yankee Stadium it was 461 feet to center. Most of the old stadiums were altered through the years to encourage home runs just as bullpens were an addition to Fenway Park to “help” Ted Williams.

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The record books are teeming with triple leaders and they all go back – way back. A thank you to the Dead Ball Era. For the Red Sox, it is Harry Hooper who has the team career record of 130 triples. Hooper – despite that total – never led the league in triples. Teammate Tris Speaker once hit 22 for Boston and didn’t lead the league. In 1912, Speaker led the American League with 10 home runs but had 12 triples.

A glance at the all-time triple leaders is, therefore, no shock to see that no one who played after 1940 is among the top 50. By the 1920’s the demise of the triple was well underway as players became home run threats and parks and fielding changed. I doubt that Sam Crawford‘s career 309 will be approached.

The Red Sox didn’t have a triples leader in the AL until 1950, but they made up for lost time by having two players hit 11. Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio shared the honors as teammates and with Hoot Evers of Detroit. They didn’t wait long for a repeat as the great Jackie Jensen had 11 triples in 1956.

Since then the Red Sox have some rather notably players lead the league. Carlton Fisk did it in 1972 with nine. Despite that early jump-start Fisk only had 47 career triples for his lengthy career. Add Jim Rice (15) to the list in 1978 and his MVP that year. Nomar Garciaparra (11) in 1997 in which Nomar was Rookie of the Year.

If you want noted speedsters getting the triple title that means Johnny Damon (11) in 2002. Jacoby Ellsbury (10) in 2009. Ellsbury – like Fisk – never really added substantially to that early foundation and remains at 47 for his career.

As a team, the Red Sox are fourth since 1901 in the American League in triples with 5459. The Yankees are third (5620) and well within a range to be surpassed sometime in the 22nd century. A doable target.

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Who will be the next leader for Boston? The difficulty factor exists with quirky Fenway Park that can either give or take a triple, but if I was laying out odds the two players are the ones that combine hitting and speed. Andrew Benintendi and Betts. Benintendi has five this season to lead the team and that may be enough at this point.