"Three, that's the magic number."
Leading MLB in batting average, home runs or RBIs is no easy feat. To reach that sort of consistency over the course of 162 games, a ball player needs everything — a good batter's eye, a powerful swing, composure when runners are on base... and some luck.
When batters put a season together leading in just one of those categories, it's a big deal. For the few that can lead in a pair of them? Well, that's likely an MVP-caliber year.
But all three? That's historic stuff.
To date, only 27 players have ever won the Triple Crown. Nearly a quarter of those hitters played in the dead-ball era, a time when amounting even 10 homers in a campaign was considered an anomaly.
That list could grow to 28; Yankees' right fielder Aaron Judge is leading the AL in batting average (.314) , dingers (60) and RBIs (128) as of Sept. 26. If Judge can keep his pace up, he can add himself to Yankee — and MLB — immortality.
So, who are the 27 players to wear baseball's finest accessory, the Triple Crown? Sporting News has you covered.
MLB Triple Crown winners by year
Here is a list of MLB's 27 Triple Crown winners (AL, NL and Negro Leagues), as well as their respective stat lines for each season:
All stats from Baseball-Reference.
|1942||Ted Williams||Red Sox||AL||.356||36||137|
|1947||Ted Williams||Red Sox||AL||.343||32||114|
|1967||Carl Yastrzemski||Red Sox||AL||.326||44||121|
How many MLB players have won the Triple Crown?
27 players have won the Triple Crown, making it one of the rarest accomplishments in all of baseball. Of those 27, just five have occurred in the post-integration era (1947-present): Ted Williams (1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), Carl Yastrzemski (1967) and Miguel Cabrera (2012).
Who has the most Triple Crowns in MLB history?
Winning one Triple Crown is a rarity. Winning multiple? Well, that's borderline impossible.
To date, just four players have ever been crowned trifecta winner multiple times. Leading the way is Black baseball pioneer Oscar Charleston, who three Triple Crowns in five years in the Negro National League.
He's joined by Cardinals legend Rogers Hornsby, Negro League icon Josh Gibson and hitting machine Ted Williams as the only players to be awarded the Triple Crown on multiple occasions.
When was the last Triple Crown winner in baseball?
In the dead-ball era, the Triple Crown was a fairly common occurrence. As the game evolved, though, the frequency dwindled — just one player has won the trifecta in the past 45 years.
That player was Miguel Cabrera in 2012. That year, Cabrera smacked 44 homers, drove in 139 runs and posted a .330 batting average en route to snagging AL MVP honors.
Aaron Judge could become the latest player to receive Triple Crown distinction. With an AL-leading .313 batting average, 61 dingers and 130 RBIs with seven games left, Judge is in prime position to win the trifecta.
Triple Crown near misses
Some players finished just short of baseball immortality, falling a few points, homers or RBIs from nabbing the Triple Crown. Here are a few hitters who had phenomenal years, but couldn't quite get that Triple Crown:
Allen, one of the greatest hitters of his generation, should be in Cooperstown. The longtime Phillies slugger led the league in homers (37), RBIs (113), walks (99), on-base percentage (.420), slugging percentage (.603) and OPS (1.023) in his 1972 MVP season with the White Sox. He finished just ten points shy of Rod Carew's AL-leading .318 average that year.
Sheff really came into his own in his age-23 year, leading the league in batting average (.330), while falling just short of the league-leading totals in homers (which was 35, Sheffield had 33) and RBIs (which was 109, Sheffield had 100). He was rewarded for his efforts with a Silver Slugger and a third-place NL MVP finish.
Albert Belle/Frank Thomas
1994 is MLB's 'what-if' season. Much like Matt Williams and Montrealers, there's got to be a part of Belle and Thomas that wonders what could have been if players' demands had been met earlier in the 1994 season.
The '94 strike halted the MLB season with about 50 games remaining. Belle and Thomas were well within striking distance of leading the league in the Triple Crown categories. Belle was two points shy of AL batting average leader Paul O'Neill, four dingers behind AL home run champ Ken Griffey Jr., and 11 RBIs from Kirby Puckett's AL-leading total. Thomas was also 11 RBIs shy of Puckett's RBI total, as well as two homers shy of Griffey and just six batting average points away from O'Neill.
The Rockies' icon tore the cover off the baseball in 1997, leading the league with 49 homers (29 of which came away from home). Walker posted an absurd 1.176 OPS away from home, nine points higher than his home OPS (in pre-humidor Coors Field).
Despite his balanced hitting splits, Walker fell 10 RBIs short of teammate Andres Galarraga. His .366 batting average also fell just shy of Tony Gwynn's league-leading .372 mark.
However, it was Walker who earned NL MVP honors for his performances. Silver linings.
It was only a short time ago that Yeli was putting up numbers that would make your favorite players jealous. In his NL MVP-winning 2018 season, Yelich led the NL in batting average with a .326 mark. He also finished one RBI short of Javy Baez's high-water mark of 111, while falling four dingers shy of Nolan Arenado's league-high 38. How times have changed.