There’s a reason the phrase “inside baseball” exists.
Baseball is filled top to bottom with phrases, technical verbiage, and other bits and pieces of “inside info” that only serious fans and students of the game understand. Someone wearing a baseball shirt with the numbers “6-4-3-2” on it is a perfect example.
In baseball, those numbers represent a double-play happening (that’s where the two comes into play) – but more than that it tells serious fans exactly how the double play unfolded on the field without them having to see anything outside of those four numbers.
Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
What Does 6-4-3-2 Mean on a Baseball Shirt?
If you’ve ever watched (or listened) to a baseball game before the odds are pretty good you’ve heard the announcer talk about a double-play getting turned.
This means that two outs were made on a single play, usually the result of some pretty smart strategy and stellar fielding by the defense. Sometimes you might even hear a double-play referred to as a “twin killing”.
A double-play can change the whole complexion of an inning. Sometimes it changes the momentum of the game completely from that point on, too.
Maybe you even heard the announcer say that the double-play was a 6-4-3 double-play.
What’s that all about, though?
Well, the numbers they are referring to have to do with the players on the field that were part of that double-play and the numbers that have been designated to their position.
A 6-4-3 double-play being called means that the shortstop (6) got the ball first, fired it over to the second baseman (4), who then unzipped it over to the first baseman (3) – completing the 6-4-3 double-play in the process!
If you spot somebody wearing a 6-4-3-2 baseball shirt the chances are pretty good they are cluing in other serious fans and students of the game know that they know their stuff when it comes to inside baseball.
How Positions are Numbered in Baseball
As we mentioned a moment ago, every player on the field defensively (all nine of them) play positions that have a designated number.
This was done in the early days of baseball to make it a lot easier for the scorekeeper to track the game. It also made sharing box scores a whole lot easier, too.
Believe it or not, you could track (pitch by pitch) every single second of every single baseball game just by reading a box score that ran through what happened at the plate and how balls were handled defensively using this position designation.
Something that can be a little confusing for new fans just getting into these position designations is that they are a little counterintuitive to what you might expect at first.
For example, you’d probably expect the first baseman to have the number one designation, the second baseman to have the number two designation, and the third baseman to have the number three designation – and then things would get a little squarely from there.
That’s not how this works, though.
The system is pretty simple and straightforward, and even a little bit elegant when you think about how the game of baseball is played.
The number one designation goes to the pitcher – the player that controls every single pitch, the player that has the ball that kicks off all the action.
Nothing happens until the pitcher throws a pitch, after all. That’s why they are number one.
The number two designation goes to the catcher. They are the second half of a baseball “battery”, and they receive each and every one of the pitcher’s pitches unless the batter hits the ball into play.
From there you have the first baseman (3), the second baseman (4), and the third baseman (5) and shortstop (6) getting the rest of the infield designations.
Outfield numbers go up from left to right, with the left fielder being designated number seven, the centerfielder being designated number eight, and the right fielder getting the last designation – number nine.
How Common is a 6-4-3 Double Play?
The most common double-play in all of the baseball starts with a ground ball hit going to an infielder with a runner on first base.
Sometimes that’s the 6-4-3 double-play – the ball gets hit to the shortstop, and they throw it to the second baseman to cut down the lead runner who then throws it to the first baseman to record the out on the original batter.
If the ball is hit to the second baseman, though, you’re going to be looking at a 4-6-3 double-play. This would mean that the second baseman took the grounder, turned the first out at the second base with the shortstop, and the shortstop threw the ball over to the first base to finish off the twin killing.
On a real rocket it to third base (and if you have a third baseman with a cannon for an arm) you could even turn a 5-4-3 double-play.
These are a little rarer than a 6-4-3 or a 4-6-3 double-play if only because the throw from the third baseman has to be right on the money but it also has to be strong enough that the second baseman still has time to slap the bag and then throw over the first to get the hitter out.
At the end of the day, though, a double-play isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, the odds are pretty good that if you watch enough of your favorite team you’ll see at least 100 of them a season – and sometimes even more than that!
Outfielders can get in on the double-play action as well, but these are considerably more rare than infielders turning two.
The outfielder usually has to make a spectacular catch, one that the baserunner misjudged them not being able to make, and then has to make an equally strong throw to beat the runner to either advance after tacking up or scrambling back to their original base.
In the middle of August in 2018 the Chicago Cubs tied to other teams – the 1942 Yankees and the 1969 Astros – when they turned seven double plays in a nine-inning game. That’s the current record for the most double plays turned in a single game!
Hitters that Have Hit Into the Most Double Plays in MLB History
Hard-core baseball fans track all kinds of statistics including who hits into a double-play more than anybody else in MLB history.
Albert Pujols (a legend with the St. Louis Cardinals) is the active and historical leader for hitting into a double-play, batting into 421 – and counting – twin killings over his storied and sure to be Hall of Fame career.
Cal Ripken Junior – the Hall of Fame iron man himself – also hit his fair share of double plays. He’s second place on the list, having hit 350 double plays.
Miguel Cabrera, one of the best hitters in baseball history, is number three on the list. He has hit 349 double plays (as of August 2022). Chances are pretty good he passes Cal Ripken Junior for the second spot before he hangs up his spikes for good.
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Hank Aaron, and Carl Yastrzemski round out the next three spots. Rodriguez hit 337 double plays, Hank Aaron hit 328, and Yastrzemski hit 323.
Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, and Jim Rice also cracked the top 10 all-time for this stat. Winfield had hit 319 double plays while Eddie Murray and Jim Rice both hit 315.
Outside of Pujols and Cabrera, though, only Robinson Cano and Yadier Molina are currently active players that have hit more than 280 double plays. Cano is at number 16 all-time with 286 and Molina sits at number 18 with 283.
No other active player in the MLB right now has hit into more than 200 double plays.
Baseball has its own unique language, one that only real insiders are aware of.
If you’ve been into the game for a while now (or played it for any amount of time) the odds are pretty good you’ve heard somebody talk about a 6-4-3 double-play.
Well, after reading the inside info above, the next time you see someone walking around in a baseball shirt with the number 6-4-3-2 on them you’ll have a good idea of what they are communicating to other hard-core fans.
As we mentioned earlier, it all goes back to how each of the nine positions on the baseball diamond is numbered. Every one of the nine spots has their own number – the pitcher starts things off with number one and it all ends with the right fielder at number nine – and it’s a big part of keeping an accurate scorecard for each individual game.
It might be a fun idea to check out a couple of box scores or old scorecards from some of your favorite games to hunt for things like a 6-4-3 double-play now that you know what to look for.