Writing in the decade of the 1910s, sports' writer Ring Lardner wrote this little ditty:
"The Naps bought a shortstop named Wambsganss ..... Who is slated to fill Ray Chapman's pants ..... But when he saw Ray .... And the way he could play ..... He muttered, "I haven't a clam's chance."
And so it went during Bill Wambsganss' major league career. A slick fielding second baseman for the Cleveland Naps (Indians), he made his big league debut in mid-1914 as a shortstop, but was soon shifted to second base with no chance of displacing the team's shortstop, Ray Chapman. 'Wamby' gracefully made the shift and worked so smoothly with Chapman that they were noted as the best double play combo in the American League. 'Wamby' batted .279 in 1919 but slumped to .244 the next year. Then a sad event took place on August 17, his close friend Chapman died after being hit in the temple by a pitch, the only major league player ever killed by a thrown ball.
Although Cleveland won the AL pennant, Wambsganss was so despondent during the World Series vs Brooklyn, that he cried his heart out to another dear buddy, F.C. Lane, the editor of Baseball Magazine. He could not accept Chapman's death, "Wamby' told Lane and feared he was hurting his team with his .154 Series batting average and with his poor fielding. Hoping to cheer up 'Wamby', Lane said, "Stay with it. This could very well be your day."
Well, it certainly was. The Series was tied, 2 games apiece, Cleveland was leading 7-0 in the fifth inning. Brooklyn's first two batters, Pete Kilduff and Otto Miller both slapped singles, putting runners on first and second. Wambsganss decided to play deep for the next Brooklyn batter, Clarence Mitchell, a good hitting pitcher. Mitchell lined a shot right over second base and 'Wamby' made a leaping catch, then ran and stepped on 2nd base to force Kilduff, who was almost to third. 'Wamby' turned to see a stunned Miller only a few feet away, and simply tagged him. The infield umpire Hank O'Day raised his hand and shouted - Out!
Bill Wambsganss had recorded baseball's first ever and still the only unassisted triple play in World Series' play. The crowd went wild - hooting and howling, back-slapping and straw-hat flinging. The celebration last a good five minutes. Bill Wambsganss made a name for himself. Writer Ring Lardner then wrote, "It was the first time in World Series' history that a man named Wambsganss had ever made a triple play assisted by consonants only."
After thoughts and interesting tidbits: When 'Wamby' was being scouted while playing shortstops for Cedar Rapids, a Cleveland scout was asked by the front office, "What's he got?" The scout replied, "Well, he has the funniest damn name I ever heard."
On being told that Wambsganss was German for a kind of overcoat, 'Wamby' thereafter often said, "I don't know if it fits me or not, but I have worn it all my life, and will do so till the end.
Baseballhistorian.com Research Dept (Rotating Green Boxes)