One of the rarest seasons in all of sport is the Triple Crown year. A Batting Triple Crown is accomplished by leading, or tying for the league lead, in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI). A Pitching Triple Crown is accomplished by leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average all in the same season.
Batting Triple Crown
The Batting Triple Crown is considered so difficult to win because players rarely hit for a high average and hit the requisite home runs to lead the league in both. In fact, players rarely win the batting title and either the home run or RBI title.
Fifteen players have won the Triple Crown since in the history of the Major Leagues. Of those, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams each won it twice. Williams came within a hair of winning a third Triple Crown in 1949. He lost the batting title to George Kell with an average of 0.3428, just short of Kell's 0.3429. Miguel Cabrera last accomplished the feat in 2012 in the American League. Joe Medwick was the last National Leaguer to do it in 1937. Babe Ruth never won a Triple Crown but he won the OBP Triple Crown 5 times in his career.
Heinie Zimmerman was credited with winning 1912 National League Triple Crown with a line of .372-14-98 based on contemporary statistics kept by Ernest Lanigan on behalf of The Sporting News (RBIs were not yet an official statistic, so there was no clear standard). However, later revisions came up with different totals and he was left off the list of winners. Revised totals compiled by David S. Neft and included in the first Baseball Encyclopedia in 1969 indicated that he finished that season with 99 RBI, 3 fewer than league-leader Honus Wagner and one behind Bill Sweeney. That became the standard, but there were such discrepancies between the various RBI totals in circulation for that year that researcher Herm Krabbenhoft decided to do a game-by-game review of RBI totals for the season in 2013, and the results were that Zimmerman had in fact led the league with 104 RBIs, followed by Wagner at 101 and Sweeney at 99. That research is now considered the most reliable and various reference sites, including Baseball-Reference.com, have reinstated Zimmerman among Triple Crown winners as a result.
The Triple Crown has been accomplished in Nippon Professional Baseball eleven times, most recently by Nobuhiko Matsunaka in 2004. Hiromitsu Ochiai won it three times in a five year span, and both Sadaharu Oh and Randy Bass each won it twice.
Major League Baseball
Triple Crown Winners
* denotes MLB Triple Crown Winner
On Base % Triple Crown
|1919||AL||Babe Ruth||Red Sox||0.456||29||114|
|1942||AL||Ted Williams||Red Sox||0.499||36||137|
|1947||AL||Ted Williams||Red Sox||0.499||32||114|
|1949||AL||Ted Williams||Red Sox||0.490||43||159|
|1967||AL||Carl Yastrzemski||Red Sox||0.418||44||121|
|1972||AL||Dick Allen||White Sox||0.420||37||113|
Other Professional Leagues
Minor League Triple Crowns
Nippon Professional Baseball
|1938 Fall||JPBL||Haruyasu Nakajima||Tokyo Giants||0.361||10||38|
|1965||PL||Katsuya Nomura||Nankai Hawks||0.320||42||110|
|1973||CL||Sadaharu Oh||Yomiuri Giants||0.355||51||114|
|1974||CL||Sadaharu Oh||Yomiuri Giants||0.332||49||107|
|1982||PL||Hiromitsu Ochiai||Lotte Orions||0.325||32||99|
|1984||PL||Boomer Wells||Hankyu Braves||0.355||37||130|
|1985||PL||Hiromitsu Ochiai||Lotte Orions||0.367||52||146|
|1985||CL||Randy Bass||Hanshin Tigers||0.350||54||134|
|1986||PL||Hiromitsu Ochiai||Lotte Orions||0.360||50||116|
|1986||CL||Randy Bass||Hanshin Tigers||0.389||47||109|
|2004||CL||Nobuhiko Matsunaka||Fukuoka Daiei Hawks||0.358||44||120|
Korea Baseball Organization
|1984||Man-soo Lee||Samsung Lions||0.340||23||80|
|2006||Dae-ho Lee||Lotte Giants||0.336||26||88|
|2010||Dae-ho Lee||Lotte Giants||0.364||44||133|
Chinese Professional Baseball League
|1998||Jay Kirkpatrick||Sinon Bulls||0.387||31||101|
|2017||Po-Jung Wang||Lamigo Monkeys||0.407||31||101|
|2010||Carlos Duran||T&A San Marino||0.349||6||49|
|2020||Federico Celli||T&A San Marino||0.473||10||36|
Pitching Triple Crown Winners
The Pitching Triple Crown is more common than a hitter's Triple Crown having been accomplished in the Major Leagues 37 times versus 16 by batters. This is in part because there are fewer players in the running for each title every year.
2011 marked the first time since 1924 that pitchers acomplished the feat in both leagues in the same year. Justin Verlander did it in the American League and Clayton Kershaw in the National League. Grover Alexander accomplished the feat four times including three seasons (1915-1917) in a row. The only other pitchers besides Alexander, to perform the feat three times are Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson.
Major League Baseball
Nippon Professional Baseball
Career Triple Crown
There have been 9 players since 1901 to have won all 3 Triple Crown Categories at different times in their career without ever winning a Triple Crown. Miguel Cabrera was in this group until he won the Triple Crown in 2012. Heinie Zimmerman was also in this category until Herm Krabbenhoft's research demonstrated that he had legitimately won a Triple Crown in 1912.
|Player||Batting Title||Home Runs Title||RBI Title|
|Babe Ruth||(1) 1924||(12) 1918-21,1923-24,1926-31||(6) 1919-21,1923,1926,1928|
|Johnny Mize||(1) 1939||(3) 1940,1947-48||(3) 1940,1942,1947|
|Joe DiMaggio||(2) 1940-41||(2) 1937,1948||(2) 1941,1948|
|Hank Aaron||(2) 1956,1959||(4) 1957,1963,1966-67||(4) 1957,1960,1963,1966|
|Andres Galarraga||(1) 1993||(1) 1996||(2) 1996-97|
|Barry Bonds||(2) 2002,2004||(2) 1993,2001||(1) 1993|
|Alex Rodriguez||(1) 1996||(4) 2001-02,2005,2007||(2) 2002,2007|
|Manny Ramirez||(1) 2002||(1) 2004||(1) 1999|
|Albert Pujols||(1) 2003||(2) 2009-10||(1) 2010|
- Andy Andres: "Can Stephen Jay Gould's theory explain why there has not been any batting Triple Crowns in Major League Baseball for the last 39 years?", in Bill Nowlin and Dan Desrochers, eds.: The 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox: 'Pandemonium on the Field', SABR, Rounder Books, Burlington, MA, 2007, pp. 141-142. ISBN 978-1-5794-0141-2
- John E. Daniels: "Where Have You Gone, Carl Yastrzemski ?: A Statistical Analysis of the Triple Crown", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 37, 2008, pp. 107-114
- Vince Gennaro: "The Most Dominant Triple Crown Winner", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Number 31, 2003, pp. 86-87.
- Herm Krabbenhoft: "Seeking Resolution of the Discrepancy for the 1912 NL Triple Crown", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 44, Number 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 54-57.
- Michael Francis Mann: Baseball's Rare Triple Crown, Xlibris Corporation, Bloomington, IN, 2011. ISBN 1465352244
- Frederick E. Taylor: "Whatever Happened to the Triple Crown ?", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 41, Number 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 93-96.