It is more rare than a perfect game and about as uncommon as an unassisted triple play.
Miguel Cabrera won baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years Wednesday night, becoming only the third living player to achieve the feat.
Cabrera led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, making him the 15th Triple Crown winner and the first since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Cabrera said. “It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it. I just had to focus, I had to go out there and do the job. The hardest part was to go out there and focus and win games. I said, ‘If we win the division, everything would take care of itself.'”
Cabrera joined an honor roll of Triple Crown winners that includes Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby each did it twice.
In contrast, there have been 23 perfect games and 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history.
“I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title,” Yastrzemski said in a statement. “I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox Impossible Dream Team.”
Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout was second in the AL batting race at .326, while New York Yankees slugger Curtis Granderson and Texas star Josh Hamilton finished tied for second with 43 homers. Hamilton ranked second with 128 RBIs.
Granderson homered twice Wednesday night, then was removed from a 14-2 blowout against Boston.
“For me, earning the batting title over Tony Oliva, who we played against in the last series of the year, was the hardest part,” said Frank Robinson, a Triple Crown winner in 1966. “For Miguel, I am sure it was even more challenging, given all the specialized relievers in the game today.”
Until Cabrera’s run, Triple Crowns seemed to be a relic from another era. When the feat was last accomplished, the World Series was still played in the daytime, there were no playoffs and each league had eight teams.
In horse racing, no thoroughbred has won all three big races — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — since Affirmed in 1978 became the 11th to sweep the trio.
Cabrera had topped each category before, winning the home run title in 2008, the RBI crown in 2010 and the batting championship last year. His remarkable 2012 season ended the longest gap in baseball history between Triple Crown campaigns.
“He’s the best hitter in the game,” Trout said. “I think his approach, the way he battles with two strikes; you leave one pitch over the plate that at-bat and he’s going to hit it. He had an unbelievable year.”
San Francisco’s Buster Posey became the first catcher to win the NL batting title since the Boston Braves’ Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Posey finished with a .336 average, nine points ahead of Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.
“I don’t think it’s something that you ever think about doing. It’s such a long season, and from Day One you try to grind out at-bats no matter what the situation is,” said Posey, who missed most of 2011 following left leg and ankle injuries from a collision at the plate with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins. “I give a lot of credit to our entire training staff for all the work they did in the offseason to get me back on the field.”
Posey’s teammate, Melky Cabrera, had a .346 average, but the All-Star game MVP was disqualified at his own request after he was suspended Aug. 15 for a positive testosterone test.
Melky Cabrera missed the final 45 games of the regular season and his 501 plate appearances fell one short of qualifying under an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ union to change the usual rule, which would have added an extra hitless at-bat to his total.
After overturning a positive drug test in an arbitration proceeding last winter, NL MVP Ryan Braun won his league’s home run title with 41. San Diego’s Chase Headley led in RBIs with 115, three ahead of Braun.
Trout (49) and San Diego’s Everth Cabrera (44) won their first stolen-base titles.
Among pitchers, Gio Gonzalez led the major leagues in wins with a 21-8 record in his first season for the Washington Nationals. Angels ace Jered Weaver (20-4) and Tampa Bay lefty David Price (20-5) tied for the AL lead in victories.
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers led the big leagues in ERA at 2.53, becoming the first pitcher to top the NL in consecutive seasons since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2001-02.
“I don’t care,” Kershaw said, disappointed his team failed to make the playoffs.
Price led the AL for the first time at 2.56.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander (239) led the majors in strikeouts for the second straight season and third time in four years, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets led the NL in strikeouts with 230, one more than Kershaw.
On the negative end, the Pittsburgh Pirates extended their record for consecutive losing seasons to 20. Pittsburgh was 62-46 on Aug. 8 before fading to a 17-37 finish.