Flynn recalls his odd three triple game in 1980
Former Met sticks out on list of players to accomplish feat
NEW YORK -- Doug Flynn made his living with leather. His hands were softer than the finest leather and quite quick as well. He turned double plays at the speed of sound. When Joe Torre managed the Mets, and Flynn was his second baseman, he likened Flynn's turn to that of Bill Mazeroski, the patron saint of pivotal players.
Flynn's offensive skills were more modest. His power was limited, his speed was a few steps better than ordinary. His glove was primarily responsible for keeping him in the big leagues for the better part of 11 seasons. Yet for three seasons -- 1978-80 -- with the Mets, Flynn was a triple threat. He was a second baseman who ended up at third more often than anyone had expected. He had produced 26 triples in that period, including three in one game, a genuine rarity.
His hat trick came Aug. 5, 1980, in Montreal. He led off three innings in what became an 11-5 Mets loss to the Expos with three-base hits. And three triples hadn't seemed possible even after Flynn had produced two.
His name stood out in the lists published Wednesday in the aftermath of Denard Span's three-triple game for the Twins on Tuesday. Most of the other players had above-average power or speed or both. Eight of the 29 players who, since 1920, have hit three triples in on one game are Hall of Famers -- Ernie Banks, Jim Bottomley, Roberto Clemente, Earle Combs, Charlie Gehringer, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Ross Youngs. And the list of players who never produced a 3 X 3 game includes such notable triple producers as Willie Wilson, Stan Musial, Vada Pinson, George Brett, Lance Johnson, Mookie Wilson, Brett Butler, Jose Reyes, Willie Davis, Lou Brock and Enos Slaughter.
So what in the name of Sam Crawford, the all time leader in triples, is Flynn doing on the list of those who have?
"I didn't have power, and I wasn't as fast as a whole bunch of guys," Flynn said Friday after he received a phone call citing his incongruous presence within a finite set of players. "I know what happened. I was there. But I really can't explain it."
Maybe the law of averages can -- or not. Flynn had hit merely 10 of his 39 career triples through Aug. 4, 1980 (2,427 at-bats), when he hit the first of the three. Perhaps he was due. After his three in five at-bats that day in Montreal, he did hit 26 more triples in only 1,735 at-bats. Progression toward the mean? But who knew what the mean was?
What happened that day was this: Flynn, a right-handed hitter was batting eighth. He tripled in the third, fifth and eighth innings. He scored in each inning, because leadoff man Frank Taveras singled in each inning, creating another rare development -- productive hitting by the former Mets shortstop.
"This is clear in my mind," Flynn said. "My first time up, I hit it into the gap in left center. They were shading me to right, of course. [The Expos believed Flynn couldn't pull right-handed starter Bill Gullickson]. Next time up, they shaded me a little to left-center, and I hit it to right-center."
Flynn grounded out in the sixth.
"The next at-bat [in the eighth against right-handed reliever Elias Sosa], I hit a routine, one hop, basehit to left. But it hit one of the seams in the artificial surface that had been torn up from football games, and it bounced over Jerry White's head. I got another one."
Flynn emerged as the final batter in the game. He was to face Sosa with runners on first and second and one out. But before he batted. He had an interesting exchange with Gary Carter, the Expos catcher.
"I knew Gary well, and when I stepped in the box, he says, 'Hit another one, no one's ever hit four in a game. Hit it good.'
"He wasn't telling me the pitches, but he was pulling for me. I know that."
Flynn grounded into a double play, and his chance for a record that still would stand was gone.
"I remember Claudell Washington made a great diving catch against me in right-center in a game in Atlanta," Flynn says. "If I had that one the same day as the three ..."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.