George “Poppy” Bush played two seasons and part of a third on the Yale baseball team, on which he was captain in 1948. Much has been written about his on-field ceremony with a terminally ill Babe Ruth, and about his participation in the first two College World Series in 1947 and 1948.
But a relatively obscure sidelight to his playing on the Yale baseball team receives little mention, something we intend to rectify in this article.
Triple plays are not a routine thing in baseball. Most players on any level can go through a season and even a career without coming close to being involved in one. But in Bush’s case it happened twice and in the same season.
Alert fielding put Bush on the back end of triple play
Bush was the rare player at his position on first who threw left and batted right. His hitting was weak, but as a fielder he was outstanding. On April 24, 1948, Yale had a home game against Amherst, played before 1,200.
In the fourth inning, Amherst’s Bill Genovese received a base on balls from Yale pitcher Austin Woodward. Ivar Rosendale followed with a single to center.
The next batter, Leon Waskiewicz, faked a bunt causing the Yale second baseman, Cotton Smith, and Bush to move in while shortstop Art Moher took a spot about four feet from second for an expected sacrifice.
Instead, Waskiewicz hit away causing Moher to lunge to his left for the low liner and step on second to double up Genovese. Moher then threw to Bush at first to complete a triple play.
Bush made it work
But it was not that easy. Moher’s hurried throw to the Yale captain from Greenwich, Conn., was high and wide, pulling him off the bag.
In the words of John J. Leary Jr. of the New Haven Register:
“Umpire Johnny King rightly ruled Rosendale safe, but in his haste to beat the ball the Amherst shortstop over slid the bag. Bush quickly applied the tag before he could get back. Thus the Elis halted an incipient Amherst uprising with an unusual triple play.”
Poppy could only watch
Poppy was on the other side of another triple play on June 25th of that year when the Bulldogs were facing the Univ. of Southern California in the opener of a best-of-three series to determine the national champion. It was just the second NCAA College World Series, and Yale was in both of them.
Yale held a 1-0 lead going into the top of the ninth when the Trojans scored three unearned runs. The Bulldogs answered with a major threat, loading the bases with nobody out.
Pinch hitter Gerry Breen dribbled a grounder to the mound. The USC pitcher, Wally Hood, threw home for the force on Bob Rosensweig, and Breen was then thrown out at first. Meanwhile, Dick Mathews was tagged out after he overran third to complete a shocking game-ending triple play.
The on deck batter, who lost the opportunity to come to the plate, was George Bush. Nobody will ever know if Poppy would have been the hero of the game and perhaps lead the Bulldogs to the national championship. Despite the tough loss, Yale won the next day, but the Trojans took the CWS winning the second game
So ended the story of two triple plays that Yale was involved in during the same season of 1948. George H. W. Bush was the defensive star of the first, and he was deprived of being an offensive influence in the second. He was helpless while occupying the on deck circle, waiting for the hitting opportunity that never came because of a triple play.
Such are the ever changing fortunes of the game of baseball. Nobody has ever been able to predict or solve them, Not even a future president of the United States.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story noted that this would be Joel Alderman’s final contribution to this site. SportzEdge was to be discontinued in late July, but now will continue publishing for the short-term future.