published: Friday, October 05, 2012
Cabrera gets Crown
Well he did it.
Current Tiger, and former Marlin, slugger Miguel Cabrera pulled off one of the rarest feats in baseball in becoming the 16th winner of the Triple Crown.
It had been 45 years since the feat was last pulled off, by Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski.
Even as old as I'm getting, even I wasn't born yet when 'Yaz' won it.
Though, oddly, as long as it had been since then, the Crown had been won just the year before by Baltimore's Frank Robinson.
This shows, perhaps, how cyclical things can be and perhaps we can expect another winner soon.
Or else, maybe it shows how much the game has changed.
For even as rare an accomplishment as it is, this 45-year dry spell marks, by far, the longest stretch between winners.
Before Robinson, one only had to go back 10 years to when Mickey Mantle won it in 1956.
Prior to Mantle, Ted Williams won it in '47 and '42, while Joe "Ducky" Medwick won it in '37 and Lou Gehrig in '34.
Just the year before Gehrig, there was a winner in both the American and National Leagues, with Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein.
Rogers Hornsby won it in '25 and '22, batting over .400 both times.
Hornsby's wins came after a 13-year stretch of non-winners, with Ty Cobb having won it in '09, with a whopping nine home runs when the game was still in the "Dead Ball" era.
This came eight years after Napolean Lajoie won it in '01, which came after the second longest dry-spell for the honor, 14-years.
That takes us back to the 19th century, with Tip O'Neill winning in 1887, nine years after the first time it was earned, by Paul Hines in 1878.
So from 1878 to 1967, 15 players had lead their league in batting average, home runs and RBI in the same season.
Rare feats, indeed, but not exactly once in a lifetime.
Fifteen in 89 years makes it about once every six years, on average, and with it sometimes happening in back-to-back seasons, much less twice in one season, that essential average has been about right.
But then it suddenly doesn't happen for 45 years, three times longer than the previous longest drought.
I wrote recently about how during certain stretches during my lifetime it was harder to achieve, with the likes of Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn often leading the league in average, with little power, precluding some sluggers from having any chance at that portion of the trifecta.
But that was one stretch of time, and even then there were hitters with power who also hit for average.
Some might point to the "Steroid Era" when it became much more an all-or-nothing approach for the home run hitters.
But if that began in the mid- to late-90s, you're still talking about a 30-year gap between Triple Crown winners, still twice as long as the previous longest stretch.
It is a conundrum.
Sure, the game has changed, become much more specialized.
But the game has gone through major changes throughout its' history, and yet, on a relatively regular basis, someone has bubbled up to win the Triple Crown.
I had meant for this column to praise Miguel Cabrera for this once in a lifetime achievement.
Ony to find out, this is the one time it's actually been a lifetime achievement - at least an achievement only witnessed once in my lifetime.
Dan Hoehne is the Sports Editor of the News-Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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