On September 8, 1958, the Pittsburgh Pirates were at home playing the Cincinnati Reds in a makeup game of a rain out four days earlier. A young Roberto Clemente, still two years away from his first All-Star season, tied a Pirates team record that day that will never be broken. Although if he was a step quicker, he wouldn’t have ended up with that record.
The Pirates had 24-year-old Curt Raydon on the mound for this game. He had a 7-4 record, while splitting time between the bullpen and starting. The Reds (who were actually called the Redlegs at the time), sent out pitcher Tom Aker, a tall, 28-year-old right-hander in his third season.
Raydon allowed a single to Gus Bell in the first, but kept the Reds off the board. Aker retired Bill Virdon, Roberto Clemente and Dick Stuart in order in the bottom of the inning.
In the second, both teams picked up a hit during a scoreless frame. Alex Grammas singled for the Reds and Bob Skinner had a lead-off double that was squandered for the Pirates.
The third inning was a quiet frame. Raydon walked Aker to start the inning, but got a double play from the next batter. Aker got two ground outs and a strikeout of Raydon.
Raydon had a 1-2-3 fourth, retiring Bell, Frank Robinson and Smoky Burgess in order. In the fourth, the Pirates wasted another good scoring opportunity. Roberto Clemente hit a lead-off triple, then watched two strikeouts and a fly ball end the inning.
The fifth saw Raydon work around a two-out walk for another scoreless inning. He then helped his cause in the bottom of the inning. After Bill Mazeroski and Dick Groat were retired to start the inning, eighth place hitter Bill Hall got a two-out rally started. He doubled, then scored the first run of the game on a single by Raydon. Bill Virdon would double Raydon home, then Clemente would triple Virdon home. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Clemente was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with the Pirates up 3-0.
Raydon worked around some trouble in the sixth. He gave up a double to Jerry Lynch and walked Frank Robinson, before getting a grounder from Smoky Burgess to end the inning.
Aker remained in the game despite allowing four straight hits to end the previous inning. He worked a scoreless sixth. Then the top of the seventh was a strange one.
Dick Stuart committed an error to start the inning, then Raydon served up a single. Pitcher Don Newcombe pinch-hit for All-Star shortstop Roy McMillan (seriously!) and Newcombe reached on another error by Stuart. With the bases loaded, the Reds sent up pinch-hitter Bob Thurman. The Pirates called on reliever Don Gross to face Thurman. The Reds switched pinch-hitters to Walt Dropo, and sent out a pinch-runner for Newcombe. Gross got a double play from Dropo, which brought in an unearned run charged to Raydon. The next batter flew out to end the frame and Gross limited the bases loaded/no out situation to one run.
Willard Schmidt came in for the Reds and retired the Pirates in order in the seventh. Gross retired the side in the eighth inning, before Schmidt retired the first two batters in the bottom of the frame. That brought up Clemente, who smacked his third triple of the game. He would score on a Dick Stuart single to make it 4-1.
Gross stayed in for the save (not a real stat at the time) and retired the Reds in order on three ground outs. He pitched three full innings while facing only eight batters total. Raydon got the win, which turned out to be the final win of his big league career. He never pitched in the majors after 1958. Raydon’s single in the fifth was his only big league hit. He batted .026 that season, though he did draw six walks.
The other three triple games in team history were by Ginger Beaumont (1899), Dave Brain (1905), Chief Wilson (1911) and Carlos Bernier (1953). No Pirates player has hit three triples in a game since Clemente. Some newspapers at the time said that he tied the MLB record, while others noted that it was a modern record. The MLB record is actually four in a game, done twice. The first player to get four was George Strief, who hit the first home run in franchise history for the Pirates, though his triples record was set three years later while playing for Philadelphia. The other was Bill Joyce of the New York Giants in 1897. He hit just 13 triples that entire season.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference