"You know what he did?" said first-base coach Luis Rivera, who acts as an interpreter for Cabrera. "He flipped it into the stands! I was like, 'Oh no! Give it back!'"
This was a memento worth keeping. For if history is any indication, Cabrera isn't likely to make a play like this again.
The play came about with the game locked in a scoreless tie, Cliff Lee on the mound, Kevin Mench on second, Marco Scutaro on first and Lyle Overbay at the plate. The Jays attempted a hit-and-run with both runners going, and Overbay smacked a sinking liner up the middle.
Cabrera, manning second base, made a diving catch of the ball near the bag, stood up, stepped on second to retire Mench and tagged Scutaro for the third out.
"As soon as they both took off for the double steal and he hit a line drive," Cabrera said through interpreter Luis Rivera, "I knew I had a chance for a triple play."
Cabrera is no stranger to the triple play. He was the "4" in the 5-4-3 triple play turned by the Tribe against the Twins on Aug. 27 of last season.
But the unassisted play is downright strange. Though the last one was pulled off by the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki on April 29, 2007, only seven have been turned since 1927.
The last one turned by an Indians player came on Oct. 10, 1920, when second baseman Bill Wambsganss recorded it in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Robins on a play that mirrored Cabrera's.
Unassisted triple plays
|George Burns||1B||9/14/1923||2nd||Red Sox|
|John Valentin||SS||7/8/1994||6th||Red Sox|
The only other time a Tribe player recorded an unassisted triple play in the regular season was on July 19, 1909, when shortstop Neal Ball turned the modern era's first-ever unassisted triple play against the Red Sox.
So, yes, this play was pretty special.
"That's something you don't get to see very often," Lee said. "That was a key play, especially at that time in the game."
Yet because this was a game the Indians lost by a 3-0 count, Tribe manager Eric Wedge didn't exactly want to bask in the beauty of Cabrera's play.
"It was a triple play," Wedge said matter-of-factly, as if such a thing happens every night. "I'm not going to talk about it. We didn't win the game."
But the guy who had the ignominy of hitting into this play was able to laugh it off.
"Hey, I'm just trying to speed up the game," Overbay said with a perfect deadpan delivery. "It's a bad hit-and-run. It's not very smart hitting a line drive. That's not going to work out very good. But, you know, I'll go down in history. No one can take that away from me."
And no one can take this special spot in baseball's annals away from Cabrera, even though the ball is now in the hands of a fortunate fan.