What’s the Most Unusual Piece of Recent Fenway Park History?
Hint: It features the best (and worst) possible at-bats.
Welcome to “One Last Question,” a series where research editor Matthew Reed Baker tackles your most Bostonian conundrums. Have a question? Email him at email@example.com.
When I was younger, I wanted so badly for the Red Sox to finally win a World Series. When it happened in 2004, it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but now we’re on our fourth championship this century! What is the most unusual thing to have happened at Fenway Park along the way? —J.S., Cambridge
I chuckled when I read your question, J.S., because I certainly have seen many unusual things at Fenway over the decades, and I’m sure you have, too. Let’s see…I’ve endured clumsy stripteases by drunks in the bleachers, beer fights on the concourse, and, of course, Manny Ramirez taking a bathroom break inside the Green Monster. But in terms of baseball oddities, there is one event that objectively stands out.
The day was Monday, August 6, 2001, and the Red Sox were playing a tight game against the Texas Rangers. In the fourth inning, with two men on base, Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg lined a shot to Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who coolly turned a triple play with second baseman Randy Velarde, thus rendering all three Sox players out in about three seconds. Pretty bad, huh? Well, Hatteberg atoned for it in his next at-bat, with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, when he hit a grand slam that would lead the team to a 10–7 victory. “That’s from the outhouse to the penthouse right there,” he said at the time.
Seventeen seasons later, the National Baseball Hall of Fame confirms that Hatteberg is still the only player ever to hit into a triple play (the worst possible at-bat in baseball) and then follow it with a grand slam (the best!). To put this into perspective, there have been 717 triple plays in Major League Baseball history from 1876 to the end of the 2018 season, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, while more than 300,000 home runs have been hit. Hatteberg’s bat resides in Cooperstown.
The irony is that this singular feat is not even Hatteberg’s most famous dinger. On September 4, 2002, while playing for the Oakland Athletics, he pinch-hit a walk-off homer against the Kansas City Royals, a shot that gave the A’s an American League–record 20th straight win and later earned him immortality in the hit book and movie Moneyball. Unfortunately, the win-streak record Hatteberg helped the A’s secure was toppled by the Cleveland Indians in 2017. So even though his “odd night” at Fenway (as he put it) may not glimmer with the same Hollywood stardust, Hatteberg can be proud that he still has that history-making play all to himself.