By Father Gabe Costa
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This past season Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera led the American League in homeruns (HR) with 44, runs batted in (RBI) with 139 and batting average (BA) with a mark of .330. This thrust him into an elite group known as Triple Crown Winners.
Since 1901 this “triple” barrier has been scaled only fourteen times. And some of the greatest players in history were not Triple Crown winners; megastars like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
In this installment of By The Numbers, I thought it might be interesting to review some of the history associated with the Triple Crown.
1. In 1901, the very first year of “Modern Baseball”, Nap Lajoie of the Philadelphia A’s won baseball’s first Triple Crown. His BA, HR and RBI totals were .426, 14 and 125. No future Triple Crown winner would approach Lajoie’s 426 BA.
2. Later on that decade, in 1909, Ty Cobb, of the Detroit Tigers, copped the honors with these numbers: .377 BA, 9 HR, 107 RBI.
3. During the Roaring Twenties, Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown twice while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1922 he hit .401, had 42 HR, with 152 RBI. Three years later he almost duplicated these numbers with a BA of .403, 39 HR, and 143 RBI
4. Perhaps the most interesting oddity connected with the Triple Crown occurred in 1933. This was the only year in history when there were two winners, one from each league. In fact, these two future Hall of Famers played in the same city: Jimmie Foxx (.356, 48, 163) from the Philadelphia A’s and Chuck Klein (.368, 28, 120) of the Phillies.
5. The very next year, Lou Gehrig of the Yankees won the Triple Crown. The Iron Horse had a BA of .363 and belted out 49 HR. His 165 RBI mark ranks at the top of all Triple Crown winners.
6. In 1937 Ducky Medwick (.374, 31, 154) of the Cardinals won the Triple Crown. No other National League player has since attained this honor.
7. In the 1940’s Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox became only the second player to win multiple Triple Crowns, sandwiching them around his World War II duties. He captured his first crown in 1942 with a triumvirate of .356, 36 and 137 and his second one in 1947 by hitting .343, belting 32 HR and driving in 114 runs.
8. In 1956, Yankee centerfielder Mickey Mantle hit 52 HR, more than any other Triple Crown winner. He bracketed this total by hitting .353 and compiling 130 RBI.
9. Ten years later, Frank Robinson led the Baltimore Orioles to their first World Series title. Robinson led the American League in HR with 49, while pacing the circuit with a batting average of .316 and 122 RBI.
10. The very next year, 1967, Carl Yastrzemski led his Red Sox to within one victory of their first World Title since 1918 and the glory days of the Bambino. Yaz hit 44 HR (tying him with Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins) and led the league with 121 RBI while hitting .326. Little did anyone realize that it would take forty-five years to succeed Yastrzemski as a Triple Crown winner.
All in all, when one considers that Major League Baseball has been played for more than a century and when we reflect on all the gifted stars that have graced Big League diamonds throughout this time, winning a Triple Crown certainly ranks among the very rare feats.
What do you think?
Does the Triple Crown still hold the significance it did in the past? Share your thoughts below…