Triple Your Fun: Pirates Play Three, Lose Two

Every week in this space, I write about a doubleheader that either played an important part in a pennant race or had some other historical significance.

Today, I’m ratcheting it up a notch. My subject is the last tripleheader ever played. The amazing event took place at Forbes Field on October 2, 1920 when the Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds.

What forced the triple dip was a rain out of the Friday night game. Apparently, little was at stake. The Brooklyn Robins had sewed up first place, the Giants were comfortably in second ahead of the soon-to-be-displaced World Champion Reds with the Pirates in fourth trailing Cincinnati by 3-1/2 games.

The rain out canceled one of the four remaining games on the schedule and meant that the Pirates were dead in their quest for third place: 3-1/2 games back with only three left to play.

But Pirates Hall of Fame owner Barney Dreyfuss recognized that third place was “in the money”.  If his team could sneak into third, his players would qualify for a small World Series share.

Dreyfuss appealed to National League president John Heydler who agreed, over the vigorous protestations of Reds’ manager Pat Moran, to replay the rain out.

Suddenly, the Pirates were alive again. The standings still showed the Corsairs 3-1/2 behind Cincinnati but now with four to play.

With three games on the bill, the opener started at the unusually early hour of 12 noon. Corsair manager George Gibson picked his ace and 24 game winner Wilbur Cooper for the crucial first game. The drama didn’t last long. The Reds bombed Cooper with 10 hits and 8 runs in 2-2/3 innings and won handily, 13-4 thus finally and officially locking up third.

Games two and three were frill. In the second, the Reds shellacked the Corsairs again, 7-3. As evidence of his indifference, Moran started four pitchers as position players. In the third and final contest, cut short by darkness after six innings, the Pirates finally prevailed, 6-0.

The game times are worth noting: the first, 2:03; second, 1:56; third, 1:01. Fans saw three games in exactly five hours or 1:39 less than the Pirates 19-inning marathon on July 26 in the team’s 4-3 loss to the Braves in Atlanta.

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