MLB Triple Crown Winners
The sport of baseball has a storied past and is considered ‘America’s Pastime’ for good reason. The crack of the bat, the blazing summer sunshine, and the smell of a ballpark hotdog are all things that many of us grew up with and still dream of.
In the storied past of the sport, one of the most elusive and most remarkable feats has been winning the Triple Crown. Dating back into the 1870s, there have been just 17 players that have led the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average. Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, there have been just 12 Triple Crown winners in Major League Baseball.
Despite the 21st century run on advanced analytics, the “big three” hitting categories of average, home runs and RBI have remained unchanged. A player from either the National League or American League has to lead their league in all three categories to win the award.
The Triple Crown is about many things; a hitter has to have the power to hit home runs, the eye to have a great batting average, and the opportunity to drive in runners. History shows that the hitters that usually tower home runs and drive in loads of runners don’t typically have high batting averages. And history’s best hitters – guys like Tony Gwynn – usually lack the power to lead the league in home runs. The all-encompassing nature of the three different categories is what makes the feat so difficult to accomplish.
Since 1967, only one player, Miguel Cabrera, has won the Triple Crown. Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 in the 2012 season for the Detroit Tigers. That snapped the longest Triple Crown drought in history at 45 years.
Another important factor in winning the Triple Crown is luck. Since 1973, only three American League batting champs have had lower batting averages than Miguel Cabrera did when he won the Triple Crown (.330) in 2012. In 1980, George Brett won the title with a .329 average, in 2003 Bill Mueller hit .326, and 2008 Joe Mauer hit .327. Cabrera also hit 44 home runs in 2012, which is an impressive number. But since 1990, only seven home run champs in the American League hit less than that number.
Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby are the only two players to ever win the Triple Crown twice. Williams won his first Triple Crown in 1942 when he hit .356 with 36 home runs and 137 RBI. Not content with that, he did it again in 1947 with .343, 32 and 114.
Hornsby put together perhaps the greatest Triple Crown season in history when he took the trio in 1922. That season he hit .401 with 42 home runs and 152 RBI. He is one of only three players to win the TC with a batting average above .400, with the others being Nap Lajoie (.426 in 1901) and Tip O’Neill (.435) in 1887.
Hornsby won his second Triple Crown in 1925 while hitting .403 with 39 home runs and 143 RBI.
Hornsby’s two Triple Crowns in the 1920s kicked off a 25-year period in which winning the Triple Crown was fairly common. Between 1922 and 1947, there were seven Triple Crown seasons. But in the 72 seasons following Williams’ 1947 effort, only four players won the Triple Crown.
Joe Medwick was the last player from the National League to win the Triple Crown. He did it all the way back in 1937. Medwick tied Mel Ott with 39 home runs that season but led the league in the other two major categories.
Some of the other notable players to win the Triple Crown were Ty Cobb (.377, 9, 107) in 1909, Lou Gehrig (.363, 49 and 166), and Mickey Mantle (.353, 52 and 130). Frank Robinson was the first African American player to win the Triple Crown when he hit .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBI in 1966.
Here is the full list of Triple Crown winners:
2012 (A.L.) Miguel Cabrera (DET) .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI
1967 (A.L.) Carl Yastrzemski (BOS) .326, 44 HR, 121 RBI
1966 (A.L.) Frank Robinson (B(A.L.)) .316, 49 HR, 122 RBI
1956 (A.L.) Mickey Mantle (NYY) .353, 52 HR, 130 RBI
1947 (A.L.) Ted Williams (BOS) .343, 32 HR, 114 RBI
1942 (A.L.) Ted Williams (BOS) .356, 36 HR, 137 RBI
1937 (N.L.) Joe Medwick (STL) .374, 31 HR, 154 RBI
1934 (A.L.) Lou Gehrig (NYY) .363, 49 HR, 166 RBI
1933 (A.L.) Jimmie Foxx (PHA) .356, 48 HR, 163 RBI
1933 (N.L.) Chuck Klein (PHI) .368, 28 HR, 120 RBI
1925 (N.L.) Rogers Hornsby (STL) .403, 39 HR, 143 RBI
1922 (N.L.) Rogers Hornsby (STL) .401, 42 HR, 152 RBI
1912 (N.L.) Heinie Zimmerman (CHC) .372, 14 HR, 104 RBI
1909 (A.L.) Ty Cobb (DET) .377, 9 HR, 107 RBI
1901 (A.L.) Nap Lajoie (PHA) .426, 14 HR, 125 RBI
1887 (A.A.) Tip O'Neill (STL) .435, 14 HR, 123 RBI
1878 (N.L.) Paul Hines (PRO) .358, 4 HR, 50 RBI
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