Triple Crown Knowledge

By jason keen
Updated: October 1, 2012
Triple Crown Winners

For as long as I can remember we hear whispers every September of a potential Triple Crown winner. And, for as long as I can remember nothing ever pans out. It happens so often that my non-MLB following friends know that Carl Yastrzemski was the last player to achieve the heralded feat in 1967. Well what you may not know is that only 15 players have hit for the Triple Crown, which makes it more rare than the perfect game (23)  and just as rare as the unassigned triple play (15).

So what makes this feat so improbable? Let’s look at the stats. Of the 15 winners, only four players have led the MLB in all three triple crown categories:

  • Mickey Mantle
  • Ted Williams
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Rogers Hornsby

Only three other players Jimmy Fox, Rogers Hornsby (yep, he did it twice) and Carl Yastrzemski have led the MLB in two of the three Triple Crown categories in the same season in which he won a triple crown. Obviously, I am bringing this up for a reason. If the 2012 season were to end today Miguel Cabrera would become the fourth player to win the triple crown while leading the MLB in two categories, home runs and runs batted in. Below is a chart showing the previous Triple Crown winners as well as where their numbers ranked in both leagues that same season.

Weird Triple Crown Facts

I am not going to say that the triple crown does not involve some luck. Frank Robinson, one of the best players to ever play the game, led the league in home runs, runs batted in, and batting average one time each in his career. It just so happens they all occurred in the same year, 1966. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby led the league in home runs twice in their careers. They remain the only players to hit for the Triple Crown twice. Here are more tidbits:

  • Carl Yastrzemski- only led the league in HR or RBI once
  • Mickey Mantle- only led the league in RBI once
  • Joe Medwick- only led the league in HR or AVG once
  • Lou Gehrig- only led the league in AVG once
  • Chuck Klein- only led the league in AVG once

In fact, of the eleven players who have hit for the Triple Crown once in his career (so I am excluding Williams and Hornsby) only Jimmie Fox led the league in each category more than once. He led the league in home runs on four occasions, runs batted in three times, and batting average twice. In 1932 he led the league in HR (58) and RBI (169) but his .364 average was eclipsed by Dale Alexander’s .367. And, in 1938 he led the league in RBI (175) and AVG (.349) but his 50 home runs were eclipsed by Hank Greenberg’s 58.

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