The True Triple Crown Winners


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Many congratulation to Miguel Cabrera ... but we're here to rain on on his Triple Crown parade just a little bit today.

It's all well and good that the Tigers' third baseman led the AL in batting average, home runs and runs batted in — not easy to do — but for us, the "true" Triple Crown winners are the four players that have led all of major league baseball in each of those three categories.

So stand up and be counted Rogers Hornsby (1925), Lou Gehrig (1934), Ted Williams (1942) and Mickey Mantle (1956).

As for Cabrera (left), he led the majors in HR and RBI, but Buster Posey's .336 average in the NL was higher. Heck, Cabrera didn't even have the highest batting average this season for his own last name ... When the Giants' Melky Cabrera was suspended, he was hitting .346 and was just two plate appearances from qualifying for the batting title. By Rule 10.22(a), baseball allows that players short of the required PAs be assumed hitless at-bats for the number they are short, and if the resulting batting average is still the league's best, they win the title. (For more on that, see Tony Gwynn, 1996.)

We will point out that over the last four seasons (2009-12) Miguel Cabrera is the AL leader in average (.331), home runs (146) and runs batted in (473).

Some other tidbits from the pursuit of the True Triple Crown (since 1920, when RBI became an official stat):

♦ The last AL Triple Crown winner (Carl Yastrzemski, 1967) would have finished sixth in the NL batting race. He even finished behind a pair of brothers (Matty and Felipe Alou), who finished one-two in the NL batting race.

♦ Yaz also tied with Harmon Killebrew for the AL lead in home runs. That to us would have DQd him from consideration for The True Triple Crown.

♦ In 1937, Joe Medwick's 31 homers tied him for seventh in the majors, 15 behind the leader Joe DiMaggio.

♦ The only year each league had a Triple Crown winner was 1933, when Philadelphia had the AL (Jimmie Foxx, Athletics) and NL (Chuck Klein, Phillies) leaders in the three categories. Klein's average and Foxx's HR/RBI kept each other from a True Triple Crown.

Below are the 12 Triple Crown winners since 1920, and how they fared in respect to a True Triple Crown ... but first ...


♦ Phillies' lefthander Cliff Lee (207, 28) registered just the fourth season with 200 or more strikeouts and 30 or fewer wallks in baseball history. The others: Roy Halladay, 2010 (219, 30), Cy Young, 1905 (210, 310) and Cy Young, 1904 (200, 29). Lee also became the first pitcher since at least 1900 with 200+ Ks and six or fewer wins.

♦ The Oakland Athletics became just the third team to spend only the final day of the season alone in first place. They join the 1951 Giants and the 2006 Twins ... They are also just the fifth team to finish first after being 13 or more games behind at some point during the season. The others: 1914 Braves (15 GB on July 4), 1951 Giants (13 GB on Aug. 11), 1978 Yankees (14 GB on July 19) and 1995 Mariners (13 GB on Aug. 2). The Braves and Yankees went on to win the World Series.

♦ Conversely, the Texas Rangers — whom the A's blew past for the AL West title — spent 178 days in first place. That's the most days spent in first place for a team that didn't finish first during the division era (1969-2012).

♦ The Rays' Evan Longoria has hit six home runs in the last three season finales in which he has played.

♦ The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games. That .763 winning percentage is the best in baseball since the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms, the forerunner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Many thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau for digging up most of those tidbits.

 Year  Player  Team  Lg.  Avg.  HR  RBI  Other League Leader(s)
 2012   Miguel Cabrera  Tigers  AL  .330  44  139  Avg.: *Buster Posey (.336)
 1967  Carl Yastrzemski  Red Sox  AL  .326  44  121  Avg.: Roberto Clemente (.357)
 1966  Frank Robinson  Orioles  AL  .316  49  122  Avg. Matty Alou (.342)
 RBI: Hank Aaron (127)
 1956    Mickey Mantle  Yankees  AL  .353  52  130  —
 1947  Ted Williams  Red Sox  AL  .343  32  114  Avg.: Harry Walker (.363)
 RBI: Johnny Mize (138)
 HR: Ralph Kiner, Mize (51)
 1942  Ted Williams  Red Sox  AL  .356  36  137  —
 1937  Joe Medwick  Cardinals  NL  .374  31  154  HR: Joe DiMaggio (46)
 RBI: Hank Greenberg (183)
 1934  Lou Gehrig  Yankees  AL  .363  49  165  —
 1933  Jimmy Foxx  Athletics  AL  .356  48  163  Avg.: Chuck Klein (.368)
 1933  Chuck Klein  Phillies  NL  .368  28  120  HR: Jimmy Foxx (48)
 RBI: Jimmy Foxx (163)
 1925  Rogers Hornsby  Cardinals  NL  .403  39  143  —
 1922  Rogers Hornsby  Cardinals  NL  .401  42  152  Avg.: George Sisler (.420)
 RBI: Ken Williams (155)