Detroit Tiger third baseman Miguel Carbrera, above, is trying to do something no ballplayer has done in 45 years — win a Triple Crown. The last Triple Crown winner was Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski, who led the American League in all three major batting categories in 1967.
If Cabrera wins out, he will become the just the second Tiger in history to win a Triple Crown, joining all-time batting leader Ty Cobb, who won the honors in 1909.
Here are 10 things you may not know about the MLB Triple Crown.
There have been 17 Triple Crowns in baseball history, with 15 different players winning the honor.
The American League has seen nine Triple Crowns and the National League seven. Canadian Tip O’Neill of the St. Louis Browns was the only player from the American Association to win a Triple Crown, way back in 1887.
Rogers Hornsby (1922 and 1925) and Ted Williams (1942 and 1947), shown right, are the only two-time Triple Crown winners.
Paul Hines of the Providence Grays was the first Triple Crown winner, taking National League honors in 1878.
The highest batting average for a Triple Crown winner was Hugh Duffy of the Boston Braves, who hit .438 in 1894, still MLB’s single season record. Nap Lajoie of Philadelphia led the American League with a .426 average for the Philadelphia A’s in 1901.
National League Triple Crown winner Rogers Hornsby hit .401 in 1922 and .403 in 1925 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The most HRs in a Triple Crown season — 52 hit by Yankee switch-hitter Mickey Mantle in 1956
The Yankees’ Lou Gehrig knocked in 165 runs in 1934, most ever for a Triple Crown winner. Jimmie Foxx had 163 for the Philadelphia A’s in 1933.
The last National Leaguer to win Triple Crown was Joe “Ducky” Medwick, way back in 1937, some 75 years ago.
The only Triple Crown winners not elected to the Hall of Fame were the first two winners — Paul Hines and Tip O’Neill — and Heinie Zimmerman of the 1912 Cubs.
Triple Crown Winners
YEAR PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1967 Carl Yastrzemski, Boston 44 121 .326
1966 Frank Robinson, Baltimore 49 122 .316
1956 Mickey Mantle, New York 52 130 .353
1947 Ted Williams, Boston 32 114 .343
1942 Ted Williams, Boston 36 137 .356
1934 Lou Gehrig, New York 49 165 .363
1933 Jimmie Foxx, Philadelphia 48 163 .356
1909 Ty Cobb, Detroit 9 115 .377
1901 Nap Lajoie, Philadelphia 14 125 .422
YEAR PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1937 Joe Medwick, St. Louis 31 154 .374
1933 Chuck Klein, Philadelphia 28 120 .368
1925 Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis 39 143 .403
1922 Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis 42 152 .401
1912 Heinie Zimmerman, Chicago 14 103 .372
1894 Hugh Duffy, Boston 18 145 .438 1878 Paul Hines, Providence 4 50 .358
YEAR PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1887 Tip O’Neill 44 121 .326
Affirmed, on the inside, edges out Alydar in the 1978 Belmont to win the Triple Crown.
In the past 30 years, no less than 10 horses have come into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win horse racing’s Triple Crown. All 10 have lost.
Will Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and Belmont favorite, break the jinx?
It’s a long litany of losers, from Spectacular Bid (1979) to Pleasant Colony (1981) to Alysheba (1987) to Sunday Silence (1989). From Silver Charm (1997) to Real Quiet in 1998 to Charismatic (1999) to War Emblem (2002). And then Funny Cide in 2003 and Smarty Jones in 2004. On Dasher, on Dancer……
On June 10, 1978, Affirmed nosed out Alydar to win the Belmont and the Triple Crown in what many racing pundits consider the greatest horse race ever. It was the third Triple Crown in five years, following the great Secretariat in 1973 and Seattle Slew in 1977. There hasn’t been one since.
“Been around racing 50 years,” Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens told William Leggett of Sports Illustrated after the 1978 Belmont, “and I’ve seen dawn come up over a lot of tracks. People will tell you about the great races between Citation and Noor out in California in the early 1950s, and the race between Ridan and Jaipur in the Travers at Saratoga in 1962. Great races. But Affirmed and Alydar in the Belmont? Probably the best horse race that’s ever been run.
“I’ll look at it again and again anytime I’m fortunate enough to get the chance. I’ll raise a glass to ‘em while I’m watchin’ the replays and, damn, I’ll root—come on Affirmed, come on Alydar. Come on (Steve) Cauthen, come on (Jorge) Velasquez. Whatever it is that these two horses have cannot be bought or manufactured. It’s the greatest act horse racing has ever had. I hope it never ends.”
Going into the Belmont, Affirmed had beaten Alydar by 1/12 lengths to win the Kentucky Derby, and by a nose to win the Preakness. Seemingly, the two were as evenly matched as two horses could be.
For the last half-mile in the 1 ½-mile Belmont, the two jockeys, 18-year-old Cathuen and Velasquez, went head to head. “We got in the front, by maybe a head, at the 3/16th pole,” said Alydar jockey Velasquez. “I thought, maybe today would be different . . . until very late.”
With Cauthen whipping Affirmed with his left hand, while Velasquez whipped Alydar with his right, the two were dead even with a 1/16th of a mile to go. Affirmed poked his nose ahead in front five strides from the finish, and kept inching ahead. He won by a neck. It was Affirmed’s seventh victory in nine meetings with his arch-rival, seven wins by a total of 10 lengths. Alydar remains the only horse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races. ‘It was a real horse race, all right,” Cathuen said later.
Affirmed was the 11th Triple Crown winner and, for the first time, there were successive winners (Seattle Slew won in 1977). As the 3-5 favorite, Affirmed paid $3.20 to win. With only five horses in the field, there was no show betting.
I was lucky enough to be at Belmont Park in 1978 with a bunch of friends to see horse racing history. We had a great view of the finish and I will never forget that guttural roar of a New York crowd, building to a crescendo, as Affirmed and Alydar came down the stretch.
We pooled what little money we had back then on Affirmed, but the real thrill was the race, not the payoff….atlhough the winnings helped us get over the Whitestone Bridge. None of us there that day ever thought that 30 years later we’d still be waiting for the next Triple Crown.