By The Numbers: MLB Triple Crowns
However, until Friday morning, there was a chance that some history could have been made on the outskirts of Queens over the weekend as well. I’ll Have Another was set to take the track at Belmont Park Saturday afternoon, looking to win the Belmont Stakes and become the 12th horse (and first since 1978) to win racing’s prestigious Triple Crown, but was scratched due to injury less than 36 hours before post time.
Horse racing will have to wait at least another year to see a potential Triple Crown, but then again, MLB hasn't seen one in 45 years...and we go By The Numbers to break down the history of baseball’s Triple Crown.
16: There have only been 11 horses to win an equine Triple Crown, but in Major League Baseball, the feat has been accomplished a total of 16 times: nine in the American League, six in the National League, and once in the American Association, which was the National League’s counterpart from 1882-91.
2: Only two men have ever won the Triple Crown more than once. Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals won the NL Triple Crown in both 1922 and 1925, while Red Sox slugger Ted Williams won the AL version in both 1942 and 1947. Not shockingly, both men are in the Hall of Fame.
4: The most Triple Crowns won by players from one franchise is four, which is a record “held” by the St. Louis Cardinals. In addition to Hornsby’s pair, Joe “Ducky” Medwick won the NL Crown in 1937, and Tip O’Neill won aforementioned American Association’s only Triple Crown for the then-St. Louis Browns in 1887.
.348-4-50: The first Triple Crown winner was Providence Grays outfielder Paul Hines, who won the NL Crown in 1878 behind that .348-4-50 line. The home run and RBI totals are the lowest of any winner in a Crown year, but the batting average is 32 points better than the .316 average that Baltimore’s Frank Robinson sported while winning the AL Crown in 1966.
165: Lou Gehrig was the first Yankee to win the Triple Crown, and his .363-49-165 line in 1934 not only led the AL, but all of MLB in those three categories. In addition, his 165 runs batted in are the most by any winner in a Triple Crown season.
52: Mickey Mantle, the second (and so far last) Yankee to win the Triple Crown, went .352-52-130 in 1956 to do so. Like Gehrig, “The Mick” led not only the AL but the entirety of MLB with those three totals, and his 52 homers are the most for anyone in a Triple Crown season.
.440: Rounding out the “highs,” Boston Beaneaters center fielder Hugh Duffy put up a line of .440-18-145 to win the 1894 AL Triple Crown, giving him the highest batting average of any winner in a Triple Crown season.
5: Overall, five men have won the “Major League” Triple Crown, leading all of MLB in average, homers, and RBI. Four of them have already been mentioned – Hornsby (.403-39-143 in his 1925 Crown year), Gehrig (1934), Williams (.356-36-137 for his first Crown in 1942), and Mantle (1956) – and the fifth is Ty Cobb, whose .377-9-107 line was MLB’s best in 1909.
1933: The Triple Crown has been won in both leagues in the same year only once, in 1933…when they were both won in the same city! That season, Philadelphia A’s first baseman Jimmie Foxx (.356-48-163) won the AL crown, and at the other end of what now would be the Broad Street subway line, Phillies outfielder Chuck Klein (.368-28-120) won the NL crown as well.
38: There is also a pitching version of the Triple Crown, which is noted if a hurler leads his league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. That has happened 38 times, much more often than the hitting version, and in fact happened in both leagues in 2011; Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers led the NL in all three categories (21W-2.28-248K), while AL MVP Justin Verlander (24W-2.40-250K) was tops in the junior circuit.
45: While the pitching Triple Crown happened in both leagues last year, the hitting version hasn’t happened in 45 years, with Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski (.326-44-131) in 1967 being the last to do it.
20: Of the 14 men to win the Triple Crown, 13 have been profiled so far in this retrospective. So, before we finish, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also showcase Nap Lajoie, who put up a .426-14-125 line for the Philadelphia A’s en route to the AL crown in 1901 – the first of the 20th Century.
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