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Three Historic Events

The fact that George was awarded his first patent at the age of 19 should have been an indicator that he would achieve great things. That was only the beginning of a string of George’s inventions, and they should have left no doubt in anyone’s mind.

George became a celebrated rival of the great Thomas Edison, pioneering in electrical research. He developed a system based on alternating current. Edison favored direct current. This made George and Edison rivals. But George was intrigued by trains, too. He got a patent for a rotary steam engine. At age 21, he invented a “car replacer,” a device to get railroad cars back on the track after they had derailed. Then, shortly thereafter, he invented a “reversible frog,” a device to be used with a railroad switch to guide trains from one track to another.

But perhaps his greatest invention came as a result of tragedy. George witnessed a head-on collision between two trains, the engineers of which could see each other but could do nothing to stop in time. That tragedy prompted George to conduct experiments that led to his inventing the air brake, a device used on locomotives and heavy trucks even today. His invention has saved untold numbers of lives over the years.

George Westinghouse was born on this date, October 6, in 1846.

On this same date seventy-seven years later, one Philadelphia Philly, Cotton Tierney, was on second base. Another Philly player, Cliff Lee, stood on first. And a third Philly, Walter Holke, was in the batter’s box with no outs. Holke smashed a line drive toward the Boston Braves’ second baseman, rookie Ernie Padgett, who was playing in only his second major league start. Padgett caught the liner just above the dirt for one out, stepped on second to double up Tierney, and then chased down and tagged a startled Lee for the third out. It was the first unassisted triple play in National League history.

Only 14 other players in all major league history have done what Padgett did. It’s a feat that is even rarer than a pitcher’s hurling a perfect game, when no player reaches base by any means.

There have been seven unassisted triple plays in the American League, seven in the National League, and one during a World Series (by the Cleveland Indians of the American League). Eight unassisted triple plays were by shortstops, five by second basemen, and two by first basemen. In every case, the player caught a hard-hit line drive, touched the closest bag, and then tagged the runner coming from the previous base.

I’ve always thought that a well-executed double play is the most beautiful play in baseball. Maybe I would change my mind if I ever

witnessed a triple play.

And finally, some food for thought: On this date in 1893, the National Biscuit Company (better known as Nabisco) introduced a tasty new invention–cream of wheat!

Safe trains, a close baseball game, and cream of wheat for breakfast–what more could one want? All of this (and more) on one day in history.

Copyright (c) 2017, Dennis L. Peterson

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