A Baseball Jewel: The Triple Crown

Oct. 3, 2012 — When you say the word triple crown, most people associate it with horse racing. The triple crown of thoroughbreds includes winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes over a six-week period when the horse is a three-year-old. It’s a feat almost impossible to accomplish. There have only been 11 horses that have done it. Affirmed was the last to do it back in 1978. In fact in the last 40 years, only Affirmed in 1978, Seattle Slew in 1977 and Secretariat in 1973 have managed to win horse racing ultimate jewel. Now, if you think winning the triple crown in horse racing is hard try baseball’s triple crown. It consists of having the league’s best batting average, most runs batted in and most home runs all in one season. There have been many great players who could hit for power but not for average. Players who come to mind include Alex Rodriguez, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and Reggie Jackson. There have also been players who could hit for average but could not hit for power or drive in a lot of runs. This group includes players like Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, George Brett and Pete Rose. There is also a group of hall of famers who could do it all and still never won the triple crown. The names Willie Mays and Henry Aaron are prominent in this department. It’s an impressive list that never achieved this honor that is what makes  the accomplishment this year of Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers winning the American League’s triple crown even more special. Cabrera is the first player to win baseball’s Triple Crown in 45 years dating back to 1967 when Carl Yaztzemski did it during the miracle run to the Pennant by the Boston Red Sox. Yet, the great Red Sox did not win the triple crown outright. He shared the home run title that year with Minnesota’s Harmon Killebrew.  The last player to win the triple crown outright was Baltimore’s Frank Robinson in 1966. There are fourteen players who have won baseball’s triple crown. The first to do it was Paul Hines of the Providence Grays in the National League in 1878. Tip O’Neill of The St. Louis Browns did it in 1894 in the old American Association League. Three years later, Hugh Duffy turned the same feat for the Boston Beaneaters of  the National League. Nap Lajoie was the 20th century’s first triple crown winner in 1901 while Playing for the Philadelphia Athletics.  Ty Cobb was a triple crown winner for the American League Champion Detroit Tigers in 1909. Rogers Hornsby of the St. Louis Cardinals won the triple crown twice in 1922 and 1925. In the next decade, there were four triple crown winners, Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics, Chuck Klein of the Philadelphia Phillies along with the Yankees’ Lou Gehrig and the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick. Ted Williams won the triple crown twice in 1942 and 1947 for the Red Sox. Then you need to push the clock ahead ten years to 1956 to see Mickey Mantle hit the triple crown while leading the Yankees to the world title. Mantle and Frank Robinson are the only two triple crown winners who added the World Series title to their resume in the same year. To illustrate just how hard it is to win the triple crown there has not been a National League winner of this amazing feat in 75 years dating back to Joe Medwick in 1937. It  shows just how special a feat Miguel Cabrera has accomplished this year winning the triple crown. It is a goal worth admiring for the baseball purist. By the way, twelve of the fourteen men who have won the triple crown now reside in Cooperstown, New York at baseball’s Hall of Fame. Cabrera’s career is far from being fully written, but the chances of him making baseball’s sacred grounds certainly took a dramatic step toward that fabled place with a summer to remember a triple crown in 2012.