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What is the rarest feat in professional baseball?

  • Unassisted triple play?
  • Pitching a perfect game?
  • Pitching more than 9 innings, perfect game?

Using a statistic or terminology that can be supported by Baseball Almanac can you name the rarest feat you could see at a ballgame, but one that has happened before at least once.

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    I'm answering this with an assumption you mean something meaningful and not a random stat (which anybody could come up with). You might want to be more specific, though, to get better answers. – Joe Jan 4 '17 at 22:10
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    Example of specific random stats: 11points.com/Sports/… – Joe Jan 4 '17 at 22:32
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    Also - "professional baseball" specific to MLB? (AAA etc. are considered professional, as are korean, japanese, cuban, etc. leagues). – Joe Jan 4 '17 at 22:49

11 Answers 11

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This isn't perfectly answerable, because it's easy to come up with specific things that only occur once if you get complicated enough.

However, if you limit it to things that would merit a sports news organization writing an article about it, then probably the most rare occurrence is a team scoring in every inning for a full nine inning game (meaning, they have score in 9 innings out of 9 innings; this mostly specifically excludes home teams since they'd probably be winning and thus skip the ninth inning).

As of this article's publication, it had only occurred twice in modern history: 1923 and 1964 (and 4 more times overall, pre-1900). Since then it's happened one more time, in 1999, in a game I watched on television (COL@CHC; back in the day when COL had some really good bats and CHC was, well, your father's cubbies). The earlier article does a good job explaining how likely this is to happen - once every 250k games, more or less, which is about once every century if you assume every inning is an independent event (protip: they aren't). It's happened three times in the last century, which isn't that far off I suppose regardless.

  • That's amazing. I'd of thought that happened way more - particularly in the 30s, and then maybe from 96-2007 or so. – dgo Jan 12 '17 at 22:56
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A very rare event is the cycle but that has happened about as many times as a no hitter.

An even more rare event is the natural cycle which is hitting the hits in order starting with a 1B. This has happened less than 15 times in baseball history.

One lucky Yankee great is the only person to hit a Natural Grand Cycle which is the hits in order and the home run being a grand slam.

Tony Lazzeri

Even a bigger feat is the home run cycle which has happened in college and high school but not the majors - hitting a 1 run, 2 run, 3 run, and 4 run homer in a game. Now doing a natural home run cycle would have to take the cake as definitely possible (can't walk the guy with bases loaded right??) but highly highly improbable.

  • Hmm, that's interesting indeed. I'm not sure it's substantially more significant of a stat than the various ones at this page, but it is interesting at least. – Joe Jan 5 '17 at 21:33
  • @Joe - Most on that page are just odd things or circumstantial - the one that isn't happens over two games. You could go on and on with the teammate stuff... the only 4 teammates to hit doubles in a row, stuff like that. The only one that is interesting on the page is the two triple plays in one game. I would have figured it would have happened more than once. – Coach-D Jan 5 '17 at 22:04
  • That's sort of my point though, i'm not sure this really is any different there is it? Nor is my example really. All examples of random things that are just rare (as is hitting for the cycle). It's hard for me to imagine a way of classifying one set as "important stats" and the other as not; perhaps a no hitter/perfect game is more "important" as it's a true accomplishment, while hitting for the cycle is just a random stat (as hitting 2 HR 1 double 1 single would be superior, for example, but far less noteworthy). – Joe Jan 5 '17 at 22:16
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Wikipedia has a list of rare single-game events in baseball. Link to source

A bunch of them have happened only once to date, making them as rare as something can get:

Individual events:
2 grand slams in an inning*
1 grand slam from each side of the plate in the same game
19 total bases in a game
9 hits in a game
7 times on base in a game without a swing
7 runs scored in a game (this was under pre-1900 rules)
21 strikeouts in a game (included extra innings)
7 home runs allowed in a game (also pre-1900)
2 grand slams given up to the same batter in an inning*
26 hits allowed in a game (9 innings)
29 hits allowed in a game (extra innings)
10 consecutive strikeouts in a game

Team events:
2 inside-the-park grand slams by teammates
2 pinch-hit grand slams (by batters on different teams)
10 home runs by one team
home runs by same 2 consecutive batters twice in the same inning
5 or more home runs by one team in an inning
3 grand slams by one team in a game

* These were the same event: the two grand slams by a batter 
in an inning were given up by the same pitcher.
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Here is an outstanding chart showing how rare many of these feats are: http://imgur.com/gallery/FNojw

This data shows that a 4 home run game is the rarest historical feat, only accomplished 14 times.

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Fernando Tatis of the St. Louis Cardinals hit two Grand Slams in one inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was even against the same pitcher, IIRC. I don't think that has ever been done before or since.

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Throwing no-hitters in consecutive starts has only been accomplished once, I believe (Johnny Vander Meer, back in 1938)

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    Welcome to Sports SE. Please provide reference(s) to your answer – alamoot May 2 '18 at 18:22
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While I can't find the statistics on this event, I would say that the rarest play in baseball is an unassisted triple play where no one on the field touches the ball after it has been struck by the batter. To my knowledge, this happened in a Triple A game in the early 2000's. This is the scenario as I remember it:

  • There are runners on 1st and 2nd, no outs.
  • The runner on first takes off early (thinking their coach called for a double steal) just before the batter hits a high pop fly.
  • Field umpire calls batter out due to infield fly rule (out #1).
  • Runner on the second stops and turns back to second base, but hasn't touched the base yet.
  • Runner on first didn't hear umpire and was running like crazy thinking the ball was hit to the outfield and wanted to score from first. The first base runner passes his team mate that started on second base while team mate is off the bag (out #2).
  • The high pop fly falls back to earth, hitting the second base runner while off the bag (out #3).

No fielder touches the ball...3 outs.

  • There is no mention of this on either Wikipedia or (e.g.) Livestrong. Triple-A in the early 2000s was a reasonably well covered, so I find it difficult to believe this incident wouldn't have received any press coverage. – Philip Kendall Jan 24 '18 at 22:37
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    @PhilipKendall here is an article describing exactly that event, but that one is from the 80s. – dly Jan 25 '18 at 7:43
  • That's not a feat it's a fluke. – Voromir Kadien May 5 '18 at 8:22
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One batter hitting 4 HR's in a game has happened only 18 times which is rarer than the perfect game. Amazingly it happened twice in 2017 (Scooter Gennett - CIN & J.D. Martinez - ARZ).

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/index.jsp?feature=four_homer_game

  • Welcome to Sports SE. Please add reference(s) for you answer – alamoot May 3 '18 at 19:10
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I believe that the only single play (for which statistics are kept) that has happened only once is an inside the park walkoff grand slam. Roberto Clemente in 1950s.

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    The question specifics support from a known database. "I believe" is not sufficient. – Nij May 29 '17 at 9:02
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How about killed by a pitch? (Tied with ITP WO GS by Clemente 1956)

The beaning of Ray Chapman was one of the most tragic moments in baseball history, as he died with in minutes after he was hit in the head by a fastball.

Chapman stepped to the plate against Carl Mays of the New York Yankees on August 16, 1920 and was unable to locate the submarine pitch. Since he never saw it coming, Chapman did not move out of the way and the pitch hit him squarely on the head

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    Under what reasonable conception is dying in a game or killing someone in a game a feat? Where in BaseballAlmanac is this recorded as a stat? – Nij Apr 14 '18 at 20:21
  • I think this depends on the OP's interpretation of the question. Is the OP asking for a baseball move which has a statistical and or strategical value (which is most likely based on the way the question is worded and the reference to the Almanac) or literally any event that is resulted by playing baseball – alamoot Apr 16 '18 at 2:27
  • Note that the OP did not use the word feat, his question was "What is the rarest play in professional baseball?" – alamoot Apr 16 '18 at 2:29
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    "What is the rarest feat in professional baseball?" It's literally the first sentence of question at the time when this answer was posted. Making a technical argument that the version of a question which got it closed should be answered but the existing version should be ignored, makes no sense at all. @alamoot – Nij May 2 '18 at 20:06
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What about the frequency of these three?

Triple play

stealing home

inside the park home run (all in MLB)

  • None of these are particularly rare in MLB terms. – Philip Kendall May 22 '18 at 14:16

protected by Nij May 22 '18 at 19:29

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