10 31 2014
  4:46 pm  
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(CNN) -- Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has become baseball's first triple crown winner in 45 years, leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.

Cabrera locked up the home run and RBI titles Wednesday afternoon as Texas' Josh Hamilton failed to produce either in the Rangers' loss to Oakland. Cabrera finished with 44 home runs to Hamilton's 43 (matched by the New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson with a late surge), and 139 RBIs, to Hamilton's 128.



Cabrera's batting title race against Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout hinged on both men's performances in their respective games Wednesday. Trout got two hits in three at-bats to finish the season at .326, according to mlb.com. Detroit manager Jim Leyland pulled Cabrera from the lineup in the fourth inning in Kansas City after he went 0 for 2, leaving him with a .330 season average.

One person who said he wouldn't be shocked if Cabrera nabbed the triple crown was the Boston Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski, who hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBIs as the last person to win the crown in 1967.

"I'm surprised it's gone on this long, to be perfectly honest. When (Pete) Rose broke (Ty) Cobb's hit record and when (Cal) Ripken broke (Lou) Gehrig's consecutive game record, I never thought that would happen either, so it's going to happen," the Hall of Fame outfielder told the Boston Globe last week.

"There's so much more publicity nowadays, people call a report in every day," the Globe quoted Yastrzemski as saying. "In '67, the Triple Crown wasn't even mentioned. We were so involved I didn't know I'd won it until the next day when I read it in the paper."

That the length of his reign surprises Yastrzemski is, well, not surprising. The Baltimore Orioles' Frank Robinson had done it the year before Yastrzemski. Eleven others have done it also, dating back to Paul Hines of the Providence Grays in 1878. The Red Sox's Ted Williams and the St. Louis Cardinals' Rogers Hornsby each won it twice.

Of course, Major League Baseball was much different 45 years ago than it is today. There were only 20 teams (there are 30 today) and the only playoff was the World Series, which the Red Sox lost to the Cardinals in Yastrzemski's triple crown year.

But Yastrzemski said batters of his era had one obstacle to face that today's hitters don't, a pitching mound that was 5 inches higher. The higher mounds gave pitchers an edge on velocity.

"I'd like to see what some of the pitchers would throw today, what their speeds would be, if they came off a higher mound. I could see (Justin) Verlander probably throwing 100 mph or more on every pitch," Yastrzemski told Boston radio station WEEI.

One question is still out standing regarding Cabrera's season: Should he be the league's most valuable player? Yastrzemski was in 1967.

TBS MLB analyst Dennis Eckersley thinks Cabrera deserves the MVP honor.

"I think Cabrera's focus has been on his team and winning, not concerns for himself. Playing for your team and having great numbers is an incredible feat," Eckersley said.

MVP or not, it won't reduce what Cabrera has accomplished this year, says his manager.

"No matter what happens, there are absolutely no flaws in Miguel Cabrera's season. None. Period. End of story," Leyland said in a CBS Sports report.

Now that Cabrera has captured the elusive triple crown, two seemingly-unattainable single-season hitting achievements from 1941 continue to loom large above the rest.

That year, Joe DiMaggio garnered at least one hit in 56 straight games. Since then, no one has come closer than Pete Rose, who had a 44-game hitting streak in 1978.

And Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, becoming the last man to break the .400 barrier over a complete season. Tony Gwynn's .394 in the strike-shortened 1994 season is the best since then.

CNN's Jim Kavanagh and Mallory Simon contributed to this report.

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