Triple crown (baseball)
In Major League Baseball, a player earns the Triple Crown when he leads a league in three specific statistical categories. When used without a modifier, the Triple Crown generally refers to a batter who leads either the National or American leagues in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI) over a full regular season. The Triple Crown epitomizes three separate attributes of a good hitter: hitting for average, hitting for power, and producing runs. It has been accomplished 17 times, with Miguel Cabrera being the most recent to accomplish the feat in 2012, the first since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The pitching Triple Crown is accomplished by a pitcher who leads the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average (ERA). The pitching Triple Crown has been accomplished 38 times, including 8 since 1997.
Generally, the Triple Crown refers to leading a specific league such as the National League (NL) or the American League (AL) in these categories. However, if a player leads all of Major League Baseball in all three categories, he might be said to have captured a "Major League Triple Crown". Furthermore, it is not a requirement for a player to be the sole leader in each category; only a tie of first place in each category is needed in order to be eligible. Yastrzemski tied with Harmon Killebrew for the American League lead in home runs (44) when he won the Triple Crown in 1967.
Batting Triple Crown
The most batting Triple Crowns won by a player is two. Rogers Hornsby was the first to accomplish it, winning his first in 1922 and then leading all major leagues in 1925 en route to his second Triple Crown, both with the St. Louis Cardinals. Ted Williams later matched this mark in the AL, winning in 1942 and 1947 with the Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals have won the most batting Triple Crowns as a franchise with four. Along with Hornsby's two, Tip O'Neill won in the now-defunct American Association in 1887 while the team was known as the St. Louis Browns, and Joe Medwick added the Cardinals' fourth in 1937. Eleven of the thirteen eligible players who have offensive Triple Crowns have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Players are eligible for the Hall of Fame if they have "been retired five seasons" or deceased for at least six months, which means currently active Miguel Cabrera, whose 2012 Triple Crown is the most recent, isn't yet eligible. Baseball writer and ESPN contributor Tim Kurkjian believes the Triple Crown has become more difficult to win with the advent of more hitters who choose to specialize in either hitting for batting average or power.
Pitching Triple Crown
The most pitching Triple Crowns captured by one player is three, accomplished by three players. Grover Cleveland Alexander captured his first two in consecutive seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (1915–1916), and won a third in 1920 with the Chicago Cubs. Alexander is the only pitching Triple Crown winner to win his titles with more than one team. Walter Johnson won his three Triple Crowns with the first Washington Senators, leading the league in all three categories in 1913, 1918, and 1924. Sandy Koufax was the most recent to capture three Triple Crowns, winning his three within four seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1963, 1965–1966); all of Koufax's wins were Major League crowns, the most for any player.
Other pitchers who have won multiple Triple Crowns include Christy Mathewson (1905 and 1908 New York Giants), Lefty Grove (1930 and 1931 Philadelphia Athletics), Lefty Gomez (1934 and 1937 New York Yankees), and Roger Clemens (1997–1998 Toronto Blue Jays).
One pitcher, Guy Hecker, won a Triple Crown in a major league that is currently defunct; he led the American Association in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in 1884 while pitching for the Louisville Colonels.
Seventeen of twenty-three eligible pitchers who have won a Triple Crown have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Under the aforementioned eligibility rules for the Hall of Fame, six living pitchers who have been active since 2007 are ineligible for election. The Triple Crown winner who most recently became eligible for the Hall is Clemens. Clemens failed to be elected in his first appearance on the ballot into the Hall of Fame.
The most recent Triple Crown winners for pitching are Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, who won for the NL and AL respectively in 2011 (the first season since 1924 to see Triple Crown winners in both leagues).
The first Triple Crown winner was Tommy Bond, who won the NL pitching crown in 1877. The following year, Paul Hines won the first batting Triple Crown in the NL; he and Miguel Cabrera are the only two batting Triple Crown winners from the NL or the AL who are not in the Hall of Fame. The highest home run and RBI totals by a batting winner were achieved by Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig, respectively; Mantle hit 52 home runs in 1956, and Gehrig batted in 165 runs in 1934, their only Triple Crown seasons. In the National League, Hornsby is the leader in home runs, with 42, and Medwick's 154 RBI lead as well. Hugh Duffy's .440 average in 1894 is the highest ever during a winning season, and the AL leader is Nap Lajoie (.426). Among the pitching triple crown winners, the lowest ERAs belong to Johnson (1.14 in the 1913 AL) and Alexander (1.22 in the 1915 NL). Johnson is also the AL leader in wins (36), but Charles Radbourn's NL total is over 20 wins higher; his 59 wins in 1884 are a Major League Baseball single-season record. Radbourn also struck out 441 batters that season, the highest total for a Triple Crown winner; Pedro Martínez struck out 313 in the 1999 season to notch the highest strikeout total for an AL winner. The highest strikeout total for a Triple Crown winner in both the modern era (post-1900) and the live-ball era (post-1920) is Koufax's 382 in 1965, which was also a modern-era record at that time.
Triple Crown winners
|Year||Links to the article about the corresponding Major League Baseball season|
|Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum|
|Player is active|
|*||Denotes "Major League" Triple Crown|
|§||Player also won the MVP Award in the same year|
|RBI||Runs batted in|
|ERA||Earned run average|
- Cy Young Award
- Hank Aaron Award
- List of Major League Baseball awards
- Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Award
- Inline citations