The Glory Years: Triple Crown Winners
The Glory Years of the 1950s and ’60s gave us the last three triple crown performances in the major leagues.
Since 1900, major league baseball has had 13 triple crown winners, nine in the American League and four in the National. That number represents 11 players since two – Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby – each did it twice.
It has been 44 years since anybody led a league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. The last to accomplish the feat was Carl Yastrzemski, who batted .326, slugged 44 home runs and drove in 121 for the 1967 Boston Red Sox.
The year before, Baltimore’s Frank Robinson also led the AL with .316, 49 and 122. That is the only time in history that there have been back-to-back triple crown winners.
However, in 1933, each league boasted a triple crown champ – the only time that has happened. And both were from the same city. Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics topped the American League with a .356 batting average, 48 homers and 163 RBI. Chuck Klein of the Philadelphia Phillies topped the National League at .368, 28 and 120.
Williams of the Red Sox first won the triple the year after he batted .406, hitting .356 with 36 home runs and 137 RBI in 1942. He did it again in ’47, putting up .343, 32 and 114 numbers.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Hornsby batted over .400 in both of his triple crown seasons – .401 with 42 homers and 152 RBI in 1922 and .403 with 39 and 143 in ’25. (His other .400 year was 1924 when he hit .424.)
Of the 13 teams producing triple crown winners, only four won pennants. That includes the last three: Yaz for the 1967 Red Sox, Robinson for the 1966 Orioles and Mickey Mantle in 1956. The Mick batted .353, blasted 52 home runs and knocked in 130 runs for the AL-champion New York Yankees.
The other member of a pennant-winning club to lead his league in all three major categories was Ty Cobb of the 1909 Detroit Tigers. He led the AL with just nine home runs, while hitting .377 and collecting 107 RBI.
Only five of the individuals who won triple crowns were voted Most Valuable Player Awards for the same season. Mantle, Robinson and Yaz were so honored along with Foxx and Joe Medwick of the Cardinals. Medwick led the NL with a .374 batting average, 31 home runs and 154 RBI in 1937.
Robinson’s .316 is the lowest batting average of the triple crown winners. After Cobb’s nine, the lowest home run total among the 13 triples is Klein’s 28. Cobb’s 107 is also the lowest RBI production of the group.
Napoleon Lajoie owns the highest batting average of the triple crown guys. He hit .426 with 14 homers and 125 RBI for the 1901 Philadelphia A’s.
Cobb, at 22, was the youngest to win a triple crown. Williams was 23 until August of his first triple crown season. Mantle was 24 for the entire 1956 season. Robinson was the oldest triple winner, turning 31 on August 31 of 1966.
That was almost two and a half months older than Lou Gehrig, who turned 31 on June 19 of 1934. The Iron Horse batted .363 with 49 home runs and 165 RBI for the Yankees that season.