MLB History: Triple Crown Winners

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MLB history is full of amazing performances by so many individual players. There have also been many outstanding teams over the years as well. While many stars have come and gone, today we take a look back at truly historical individual achievements: those who have won the coveted Triple Crown.

MLB History: Truly Rare

First of all, a reminder as to what it means to win the Triple Crown. For hitters, the focus here, the Triple Crown is awarded to a hitter who leads his league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs in the same season. Technically, there is no actual award to these players. Rather, these players are simply recognized as having accomplished the feat of leading their league in all three categories.

So, how rare is the Triple Crown? Since 1887, only 16 players have won the Triple Crown. To put that in perspective, there have been 23 perfect games in MLB history. MLB players have hit for the cycle 330 times since MLB began. The number of Triple Crown winners compares to the 15 unassisted triple plays that have been recorded in MLB history. 18 players have had at least four home runs in one game, while 47 different players have recorded at least six hits in one game. While these are single-game accomplishments, they help put the number of Triple Crown winners in perspective.

Triple Crown Winners: The List

In chronological order, here are the names of the 16 players in MLB history who have won the Triple Crown:

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (AL), 2012 – .330, 44 home runs, 139 RBIs

Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox (AL), 1967 – .326, 44 home runs, 131 RBIs

Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles (AL), 1966 – .316, 49 home runs, 122 RBIs

Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees (AL), 1956 – .353, 52 Home runs, 130 RBIs

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox (AL), 1947 – .343, 32 home runs, 114 RBIs

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox (AL), 1942 – .356, 36 home runs, 137 RBIs

Joe Medwick, St. Louis Cardinals (NL), 1937 – .374, 31 home runs, 154 RBIs

Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees (AL),  1934 – .363, 49 home runs, 166 RBIs

Jimmie Foxx, Philadelphia Athletics (AL), 1933 – .356, 48 home runs, 163 RBIs

Chuck Klein, Philadelphia Phillies (NL), 1933 – .368, 28 home runs, 120 RBIs 

Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals (NL), 1925 – .403, 39 home runs, 143 RBIs

Rogers Hornsby, St. Louis Cardinals (NL), 1922 – .401, 42 home runs, 152 RBIs· 

Heinie Zimmerman, Chicago Cubs (NL), 1912 – .372, 14 home runs, 104 RBIs

Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers (AL), 1909 – .377, nine home runs, 107 RBIs

Nap Lajoie, Philadelphia Athletics (AL), 1901 – .426, 14 homeruns, 125 RBIs

Hugh Duffy, Boston Beaneaters (NL), 1894 – .440, 18 home runs, 145 RBIs

Tip O’Neill, St. Louis Browns (NL), 1887 -.435, 14 home runs, 123 RBIs

Paul Hines, Providence Grays (NL), 1878 – .358, four home runs, 50 RBIs

(Note: RBIs were not an official statistic before 1920)

Triple Crown Winners: Beyond the Numbers

The players named above were more than just names on a page or just players who accomplished one of the rarest feats in MLB history. Here are some interesting facts to consider when reflecting on the Triple Crown winners. Some may be more interesting than others, but hopefully, they will be entertaining.

Here is the breakdown by decade:

Pre-1900: Three

1900-1909: Two

1910’s: One

1920’s: Two

1930’s: Four

1940’s: Two

1950’s: One

1960’s: Two

2010-2019: One

Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby were the only men to win the Triple Crown twice. Incredibly, Williams won his first in 1942, then missed three seasons serving in WW II. He came back in 1946 to finish second in all three categories while being named AL MVP. This accomplishment certainly reaffirms Williams’ status as a top all-time player.

Hornsby, meanwhile, from 1920-1925, lead the NL in BA, OBP, and slugging every year. Yes, he led the entire NL in all three Categories for six straight seasons! He managed to hit .400 three times in the six-year period. He also won the NL MVP in 1925, an award which he would win again before he retired.

The biggest gap between Triple Crowns was the 45-year gap between Yastremzski and Cabrera. Interestingly, Yaz won his award the year after Frank Robinson won his. So, in the AL, there were back-to-back Triple Crown winners 1966 and 67. It would be another 45 years before there was another winner. This gap is most difficult to understand for sure.

Of the 18 Triple Crowns won in MLB history, 10 of them were in the AL, while eight were in the NL. Of the NL’s eight, three of them were achieved before the end of the 19th century. Ducky Medwick is the most recent Triple Crown winner in the NL. He won his Triple Crown in 1937. That means that there has not been a Triple Crown in the NL for 83 years. Interestingly, since Medwick won the award, there have been six Triple Crowns in the AL.

Of the 16 Triple Crown winners, all but Cabrera, Zimmerman, Hines, and O’Neill are in the MLB Hall of Fame. However, Cabrera is still playing for the Tigers and is a lock for induction when he becomes eligible. So, these Triple Crowns were not lucky seasons for these players. Many of them are among the very best players in MLB history. So, it is not surprising to see that they achieved the Triple Crown.

1933 in Philadelphia – A Magical Season

Finally, perhaps the most noteworthy, or most curious thing in all of this is what happened in the City of Brotherly Love in 1933. That season, Chuck Klein of the Phillies (NL) and Jimmie Foxx of the A’s(AL) each won the Triple Crown. Interestingly, their stat lines are not close. Klein outhit Foxx by 12 points in batting. However, Foxx had 48 home runs and 163 RBIs, while Klein managed 28 home runs and 120 RBIs. In all of MLB history, there had never been two winners in the same year, much less from the same city. 1933 must have been quite a season for Philadelphia baseball fans. Imagine Kris Bryant and Jose Abreu chasing Triple Crowns in the same season. That could be fun to watch.

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!