10 fun facts about baseball’s Triple Crown

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

American League
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

National League
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

American Association
YEAR   PLAYER                                    HR    RBI    AVG
1887    Tip O’Neill                                 44    121    .326

Can’t Top This: Hornsby’s 5-Year Run

Nobody in baseball history — not Cobb, not Ruth, nor Williams or Bonds — ever put together a better five-year run than Rogers Hornsby.

Between 1921 and 1925, the St. Louis Cardinals second baseman won five consecutive batting titles — with averages of .397, .401, .384, .424 and .403. Overall the Rajah won seven batting crowns and hit .358 lifetime, highest for a right-hand batter in the history of the game.

During that five-year stretch, Hornsby also:

  • Led the NL in HRs in 1922 and 1925, winning Triple Crowns both years.
  • Hit .424 in 1924, the highest average ever recorded in a single season
  • Led the NL in OBP, slugging and OPS five straight times
  • Led the NL in hits, doubles, runs and RBIs three times, and triples once

In 1922, Hornsby led the league with 42 home runs, 152 RBIs,  a .401 average and 450 total bases. Only Ruth with 457 in 1921, ever had more. Not too shabby.

After winning his second Triple Crown and the NL MVP in 1925 with 39 homers, 143 RBIs and a .403 average, the Rajah’s numbers slipped to a more pedestrian .317 the following season. However, as player-manager he led the Cardinals to their first World Championship with a seven-game triumph over the Yankees.

Six Straight Batting Titles
Hornsby also won the NL batting title in 1920, when he hit .370 and led the NL in hits, doubles, RBIs, OBP, slugging and OPS. Not even the great Ty Cobb can match Hornsby’s run of six straight batting titles, between 1920 and 1925.

Throughout baseball history, other players have had remarkable five-year runs. Beginning in 1911, Cobb won five straight batting titles — .420, .409, .390, .368 and .369 — but couldn’t match up to Hornsby in some of the other categories. Babe Ruth won four home run titles, three RBI crowns and a batting title in his first five seasons with the Yankees, beginning in 1920.

Ted Williams hit .401 in  1941 and won American League Triple Crowns in 1942 and 1947 (the only player besides Hornsby to win two), but lost three years to World War II service. And more recently Barry Bonds had a remarkable run between 2000 and 2004, capped by a record 73 home runs in 2001.

But none can match the Rajah’s brilliant five-year run.

Just before Christmas in 1926, Hornsby was traded to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring. Following the 1927 season, the Giants shipped Hornsby to the Boston Braves for Shanty Hogan and Jimmy Welsh.

Hornsby played just one year in Boston. Despite winning his seventh and final batting title in 1928, Hornsby then was traded to the Cubs for Bruce Cunningham, Percy Jones, Lou Legett, Freddie Maguire, Socks Seibold and $200,000.

That deal paid off handsomely for the Cubs, as Hornsby earned his second MVP in leading the Cubs to the 1929 World Series.

Hornsby went on to manage the Cubs, St. Louis Browns and Cincinnati Reds, and was a coach for the original 1962 New York Mets. He passed away in 1963.

10 Things You Never Knew About Jake Beckley

Earlier this week, Derek Jeter passed a couple of  ball players — Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley — to move into 33rd place on major league baseball’s all-time hit list.

You remember Rogers Hornsby, the greatest right-hand hitter in baseball history,. Guy hit 358 lifetime and .424 in 1924, still the record for a single season.

And Beckley. Well who the heck is Jake Beckley? Old Eagle Eye. Never heard of him.

So for the greater benefit of society, we present 10 things you probably never knew about Jake Beckley.

1. Jake Beckley was born two years after the end of the Civil War in Hannibal, Missouri, the town that Mark Twain made famous.

2. He began his baseball career in 1888 with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the National League. The Alleghenys later became the Pirates.

3. In the spring of 1890, Beckley interrupted his NL career when he, along with eight of his teammates and manager Ned Hanlon, jumped to the Pittsburgh Burghers of the new Players League.

4. When the  new PL offered him a higher salary, he made the move and explained, “I’m only in this game for the money anyway.”

5 Jake married in 1891 but his wife Molly died after only seven months. He didn’t remarry until his playing career ended.

6. When he retired after 1907 he was baseball’s all-time leader in triples. He is still fourth all-time, behind only fellow Hall of Famers Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner.

7. Beckley batted .300 or better in 13 of his 20 seasons. He hit .308 lifetime, and had 2,930 career hits.

8. Beckley’s reputation suffered because he never played on a pennant winner, and only one team he played for (the 1893 Pirates) finished as high as second place.

9. He held the career record for games played at first base until 1994, when Eddie Murray passed him. He still leads all first basemen in putouts and total chances.

10. Jake Beckley operated a grain business in Kansas City after his baseball career ended. He died at age 50 in 1918 of heart disease.

10 Baseball Records That Will Never Be Broken

No pitcher will ever equal the 511 wins chalked up by legendary hurler Cy Young.

They say that records are made to be broken. But there are exceptions to every rule.

These 10 baseball records (and some related ones) will never be broken.

1. Most wins, lifetime, Cy Young, 511

Young’s record spanned the 1890s and baseball’s modern era. To break this record, a pitcher would need to win 25 games for 20 years…and even then, he comes up a dozen short. Next closest is Walter Johnson with 417 wins.

Some other pitching longevity records that seem certain to withstand the test of time: Jack Chesbro’s 41 wins for the New York Highlanders in 1904, Ed Walsh’s 464 innings pitched for the Chicago White Sox in 1908; Walter Johnson’s 110 shutouts and Nolan Ryan’s 5714 career strikeouts.

2. Most triples, lifetime, Sam Crawford, 309

The current leader in the majors, Johnny Damon, has 94 career triples…and is 35 years old. In fact, since Stan Musial retired in 1963 with 177 three-baggers, nobody has had more than Willie Wilson’s 147. The record for triples in a single season, Chief Wilson’s 36 for the Pirates in 1912, appears safe as well.

3. Highest batting average, lifetime, Ty Cobb, 366

Nobody has come within 25 points of Cobb, shown right, since Ted Williams retired in 1960 with a .344 average. Among all active players, Albert Pujols is the leader at .334.

4. Most consecutive games played, Cal Ripken, 2632 games

They said Lou Gehrig’s record of 2130 games played would last for all time…that is until Cal Ripken came along. Don’t see any more Ripkens on the horizon.

5. Highest batting average, season, Rogers Hornsby, .424 in 1924

The Rajah’s record stands secure; the last player to hit. 400 in a season was Ted Williams in 1941.

6. Longest hitting streak, Joe DiMaggio, 56 games in 1941

Pete Rose came closest  with his National League record 44-game streak in 1978.

7. Most grand slams, one inning, Fernando Tatis, 2 in 1999

Tatis is the only man in history to hit two salamis in the same inning. Add in the fact that he did it against the same pitcher, Chan Ho Park, and you’re got a record that will never be broken.

8. Most home runs, World Series, Mickey Mantle 18

This legendary leader list, topped by Mantle, shown left, includes Babe Ruth with 15, Yogi Berra with 12, Duke Snider with 11 and Lou Gehrig with 10. No active player is even close. Speaking of World Series records, Whitey Ford’s 10 wins and Yogi Berra’s 71 hits and 10 championships will be tough to match.

9. Most consecutive no-hitters, Johnny Vander Meer, 2 in 1938

One no-hitter is an extreme rarity, but only Vander Meer, a Cincinnati left-hander, ever threw two in a row. He beat the Braves at Cincy’s Crosley Field on June 11, 1938, and four days later no-hit the Dodgers in the first night game ever played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Another record that should stand for all-time is Nolan Ryan’s career 7 no-hitters.

10. Toughest batter to strike out, Joe Sewell, 114 strikeouts in 7132 at-bats

A perennial .300 hitter over 14 seasons with the Yankees and Indians, Sewell’s career rate of one strikeout for nearly every 63 at-bats is by far the best in history. He struck out three times in 1932 — in 503 at-bats over the course of the entire season. Today’s players routinely strike out three times in a game and 114 times or more in a single season.