Like Neun, Hansen went from triple play to scouting


As Ron Hansen remembers it, the play went bang-bang-bang. Triple play. Unassisted triple play. It happened so quickly that he didn't immediately grasp the historic significance.

On July 30, 1968, when he was with the Washington Senators, Hansen, playing shortstop, became the eighth man in major-league history to make an unassisted triple play.

In the first inning against the Cleveland Indians, with Russ Snyder on first base and Dave Nelson on second, catcher Joe Azcue hit a low liner up the middle.

"I was running toward second for the ball," Hansen said. "I caught it and stepped on second to double Nelson. Russ had taken a big lead off first base, and I ran him down and tagged him. Bang-bang-bang."

The last previous man to pull off an unassisted triple play was Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun in 1927. Neun lived in Baltimore, like Hansen does now, and, like Hansen, was a scout.

Since Hansen's triple play, there have been only two, in 1992 by Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini and last year by Boston Red Sox shortstop John Valentin.

Hansen played for the Orioles from 1958 to 1962. He started the 1958 opener, but broke his hand and was out six weeks and spent the rest of the season in the minors with Single-A Knoxville. The next season, after a slow start with the Orioles, he was sent to Triple-A Vancouver.

In his first full season, 1960, Hansen was American League Rookie of the Year. Missing only one of 154 games, he hit .255, had 22 home runs and 86 RBIs while batting, for the most part, seventh in the order. Graceful at 6 feet 3 and sure-handed, he helped Brooks Robinson seal the left side of the infield.

Robinson, Jerry Walker, Chuck Estrada and Hal "Skinny" Brown, members of manager Paul Richards' Kiddie Korps, stayed in a house owned by a Mrs. Kay Groton.

"We were two blocks from the park," Hansen said. "We were all single, except Skinny. We made great friendships."

Hansen met his wife-to-be through Mrs. Groton, who arranged blind dates one night for him and Estrada. Dale Keller was supposed to be Estrada's date, but he was upstairs getting ready when she arrived and Hansen and she hit it off immediately. Less than a year and a half later, Estrada was the best man at their wedding.

Despite two back operations, Hansen played 15 years, including tenures with the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals, as well as the Orioles and Senators. His lifetime average was .234; only once, in 1964, did he hit 20 home runs after his rookie season.

He coached for the Milwaukee Brewers for six years, for the Montreal Expos for six more, and is in his fifth year as a major-league scout for the Yankees, working out of the home where he and Dale live in Baldwin.

Next: The 37-year-old clutch hitter who was the Most Valuable Oriole in 1959.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad