The Most Exciting Play in Baseball

Hank Aaron once said that “the triple is the most exciting play in baseball.

He was wrong.

That breathless anticipation and excitement as a runner makes the turn at second and heads for third is one of the sport’s greatest pleasures — a pleasure amplified, I suspect, by its rarity in today’s game. So I certainly understand where Hammerin’ Hank’s coming from when he extols the virtues of the three-bagger.

But this will always be the most exciting play in baseball:

Because baseball is such a comparative sport, accounts of yesterday’s feat eagerly point out that SS Jonathan Villar’s steal makes him the “1st Astros rookie to steal home since Craig Biggio on July 13, 1989 against the Phillies.” Also, Villar’s been playing for all of 8 games. And if his post-game remarks are any indication, it won’t be the last time we see him raging down that line. “For me it was easy. Because sometimes when the pitcher doesn’t look at me, that’s easy for me.” (Funny. The pitcher never looks at me when I’m standing at third, either. But that’s because I can’t run. Same planet; different athletic worlds.)

And because there’s no such thing as Too Much Baseball, here’s a look at the (arguably) most famous steal of home to date: Jackie Robinson’s 8th inning theft in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series. (Yogi is not amused.)

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • charlie

    Excellent post Joseph! At least my Astros made the news for something other than losing…

    • Manny

      Yeah, but my Orioles still won the game. ;)

  • Manny

    When I saw your title I was thinking inside the park home run. Stealing home is rare. Now that I’m thinking on it though, perhaps it’s not the most exciting. It happens so fast, one doesn’t even realize it’s happening until it’s over. The triple or inside the park home run builds with tension as it unfolds before your eyes. Stealing home is more shock and awe.

    • Joseph Susanka

      A big part of the excitement is that the play involves the Highest Possible Stakes. It’s the ultimate “Win or Go Home” play, and it involves a combination of speed AND caginess that is not required in either the triple or the Inside the Park HR. (The former doesn’t have high enough stakes for me, and the latter is frequently the result of a poor fielding route/decision.)

      The point about speed is a good one, though. …but it also gets to the difference between watching a game on TV, and watching it live. If a guy takes off from 3B in a life game? You know it.

      • Manny

        Good point about live. Still as the seconds tick away as a person rounds the bases, you can feel the tension. They’re both exciting. :)

        • Joseph Susanka

          “They’re both exciting.”

          I’m with you on that, Manny. Luckily, no one’s forcing us to take one or the other. We get both.


      • darthlevin

        You’re right about the triple not having high enough stakes, having watched the Reds waste enough of them this season.

        • Joseph Susanka

          This sent me to the MLB’s Team Stats page, Darth. The Reds have had 14 this year. Not sure how many have been wasted, though I appreciate your frustration when it happens. (Pretty much every time a Dodgers gets to 3B with less than 2 outs AND doesn’t score, I flip out.)

          The Brewers have 32 triples. Wow. (And their catcher has 4. WOW.)

  • Joseph Susanka

    I am somewhat familiar with Tunis, Anna. But to my shame, I cannot tell you I’ve read the books in question. (To my additional/deeper shame, you’re bringing them to my attention for the first time.)

    I see them described as “the Brooklyn Dodger series,” though…which is just rubbing salt on the wound. I’m off to hunt them down!

    • Anna

      He has a bunch of books with various sports as the theme, but baseball is clearly his first love and they’re the best-written. And the series with “The Kid” will be great to share with all those boys of yours! It’s not easy finding good books for boys, but my brothers and husband (and his co-workers b/c he liked them so much, he lent them around) all enjoyed them, as kids and adults.

      • Joseph Susanka

        We’re constantly on the lookout for Books for Boys, Anna. And series are especially helpful, because it buys us a few extra days. (Second Son Sean, in particular, goes after books voraciously.)