Only 15 major-league players have ever won the sport's elusive Triple Crown, but Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in 2012 has a legitimate chance to become the 16th.
What is the Triple Crown? It is a player who leads his league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in -- all in the same season. A complete list of winners can be found here.
The last player to do it was Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967. He led the American League with a .326 batting average, 44 home runs, and 121 RBIs while leading the Red Sox to a surprise AL pennant.
The trick was also turned the previous year by Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. In 1966, Robinson -- in his first year with Baltimore after spending 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds -- hit .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs, all good for the American League lead. For his trouble, Robinson was named the league's Most Valuable Player, becoming the first (and, to date, still only) player to win MVP awards in both the American and National leagues. Robinson had previously won the award for the Reds in the NL in 1961.
The only time each league had a Triple Crown winner in the same season was in 1933 and it was all confined to one city. Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics led the American League with a .356 average, 48 homers, and 163 RBIs while Chuck Klein of the Phillies did the same in the National League by hitting .368 with 28 homers and 120 RBIs.
Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only two-time Triple Crown winners. Hornsby won his first with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1922 (.401, 42, 152) and did it again for the Cards in 1925 (.403, 39, 143). Williams won Triple Crowns while playing for the Red Sox in 1942 (.356, 36, 137) and 1947 (.343, 32, 114).
Others to win the Triple Crown include Paul Hines of the Providence Grays in 1878 (.358, 4, 50); Tip O'Neill of the St. Louis Browns of the old American Association in 1887, when that league was still considered a major league; Nap Lajoie of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 (.426, 14, 125); Ty Cobb of the Tigers in 1909 (.377, 9, 107); Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees in 1934 (.363, 49, 165); Joe Medwick of the Cardinals in 1937 (.374, 31, 154); and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees in 1956 (.353, 52, 130).
Through games of Sept. 23, Cabrera was leading the American League with a .331 average (Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is second with a .323 mark) and 133 RBIs (10 more than Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers). He was tied with Hamilton in the home-run race with 42.
While only 15 players have won the Triple Crown, several others have come quite close. Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants led the National League in home runs and RBIs in both 1968 and 1969, but Pete Rose of the Reds had the league's highest batting average in each of those seasons.
Dick Allen of the Chicago White Sox led the AL in homers and RBIs in 1972 but fell 10 points shy of the Minnesota Twins' Rod Carew for the batting title. George Foster of the Reds hit a NL-leading 52 home runs and drove in a league-best 149 runs in 1977, but he lost the batting title to Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates, .338-.320.
Jim Rice of the 1978 Red Sox led the AL in homers and RBIs; Gary Sheffield of the San Diego Padres in 1992 was the batting champion but missed the Triple Crown by two home runs and nine RBIs; and Barry Bonds of the Giants in 2002 won the batting title at .370 but fell three home runs and 18 RBIs short.
Albert Pujols of the Cardinals came close in both 2003 and 2009. In 2003, Pujols won the batting title but was four homers and 17 RBIs away from league-leading totals in those categories. In 2009, Pujols was the home-run champ in the NL, but missed by six RBIs, and his .327 average fell short of the .342 compiled by Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins.
Phil Watson is a longtime New York Yankee fan who has covered baseball for more than 20 years.
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