Triple Crown Glory

Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 Triple Crown stats looked like this: 44 HRs/139 RBI’s/ .330 Batting Average.  Cabrera joins that elite club of Triple Crown winners that includes only 15 names. But of the 15 players (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams were the only 2 time winners) Cabrera becomes the first and only third baseman to win it!

Comparing Triple Crown seasons is entertaining; Paul Hines, of the Providence Grays is credited with being the first to accomplish the feat back in 1878. Dismiss it if you wish but the best in any era is still the best. Hines’s stat line was in that deader than dead-ball era; 4 HR’s/50 RBI’s/.358 BA. I’m guessing they didn’t have a 154 game schedule.

Being a Bostonian I have to acknowledge Tip O’Neil who won the TC in 1887 for the St. Louis (who became the Baltimore Orioles) Browns. Get a load of his TC stats; 14 HR, 123 RBI’s and a .435 BA. .435!

Hugh Duffy, played for Boston’s NL franchise, the Beaneaters and pulled off the TC in 1894 with 18 HRs/145 RBIs/.440 BA. 440 topped them all.  

Napoleon Lajoie, referred to as the greatest player of his time, was the first 20th century winner in 1901, with a league leading 14 HRs/125 RBIs/.426 BA.

Hornsby, another of baseball’s immortals, won the Triple Crown in both 1922 and 1925. Hornsby, the St. Louis Cardinal second baseman, reeled off 42 HRs/152 RBI/.401 BA in 1922 and an equally stellar 39 HRs/143 RBIs/.403 BA in 1925.

1933 saw both Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein win the Triple Crown. Foxx won it playing for the AL’s Philadelphia A’s (48 HRs/163 RBIs/.356 BA) while Klein played for the cross town Philadelphia Phillies in the NL (28HRs/120 RBIs/.368 BA).

In ’37, Joe Medwick rang up some solid numbers for the St. Louis Cardinals, with 31 HRs/154 RBIs/.374 BA.

Ted Williams, also won it twice in, ’42 and ’47, but neither included his famed .406 BA from 1941 or his most home runs, 43 or 159 RBI’s from 1949. In comparison his triple crown stats seemed almost average for the famed Red Sox left fielder. 1942: 36 HRs/137 RBIs/.356 BA. And in ’47:  32 HR’s/114 RBI’s/.343 BA.

Triple Crown stats tell only half the story with Ted Williams and how remarkable he was; let’s try these stats also from the 1941 season. Williams was just 23, he hit 37 HRs to go with the .406 average, drew 147 walks and struck out …wanna guess how many times in 606 plate appearances?

Try 27. Repeat 27! Williams’ On Base Percentage, (OBP) by the way, was .553.

Mickey Mantle, in 1956, had a classic Yankee season on his way to his Triple Crown, 52HRs/130 RBIs/.353 BA.

Ten seasons later, in ’66, Frank Robinson, who was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles, won his triple crown with what seems a lowly batting average of .316 but there was nothing lowly about his 49 HRs and 122 RBIs.

1967, the very next year, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski won it tying for the HR lead with Harmon Killebrew at 44, to go with his 121 RBIs and .326 BA.

Two winners have been left out. Any guesses? Babe Ruth? Willie Mays? No and no. Though Ruth had several seasons worthy and, yes he did win a batting title in 1924 with a .378 average. His highest average was actually .393!

In 1921, he put up a year which probably would have been the greatest triple crown season of all but he failed to win the batting championship; Ruth hit 59 HRs, 171 RBIs to go with his .378 BA.

So much of it is circumstances and with Ruth the fact he had a great Yankee teammate, like Lou Gehrig, who actually did win a Triple Crown in 1934 with 49 HRs/165 RBIs/.363 BA.

The missing Triple Crown winner on the list is the purest hitter baseball has ever seen – Ty Cobb. And another Detroit Tiger. Cobb won more batting titles than any player ever, 11 or 12 its still in dispute! Batting titles and .367 career average aside it surprises many he won a home run title; In 1909, Cobb’s 9 HR’s were enough to go with 107 RBIs and a .377 BA to win the Triple Crown.

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