With the big-league season winding down, talk of an unprecedented second straight Triple Crown for Miggy Cabrera is dissipating as well. It’s not only that the Tigers’ Mr. Big is running out of time to overhaul Baltimore’s Chris Davis in home runs, it’s that he’s also suffering from nagging injuries that have severely cut into his production. Now even his once-healthy leads in batting average and runs batted in are being threatened. It’s not impossible that the man who for most of the summer threatened to lead the league in all three major batting categories will wind up leading in none.
If nothing else, Miggy’s travails underscore just how difficult it is for a player to lead the loop in any of the three major batting categories at any point during his career, much less all three in the same season. Consider this: In his 22 seasons with the Tigers, Al Kaline captured one batting title (in 1955) but never led the American League in either home runs or RBIs. Not once. A fellow Hall of Famer, second baseman Charlie Gehringer, had a similar record. Gehringer, a .320 career hitter, grabbed the batting title in 1937 but never topped the American League in either homers or ribbies during his 19 years with Detroit.
So, we’ve established how difficult it is for even a Hall of Fame banger to grab one-third of a Triple Crown. But how about grabbing two-thirds? As you might suspect, it’s much harder. Since 1901, a total of 112 seasons, a Tigers batter has finished the season as a “double crown” champion – that is, leading in two of the three major categories – on only nine different occasions. Those seasons are listed here. Note that the Tigers’ two Triple Crown winners (Cabrera in 2012 and Ty Cobb in 1909) are not included. Curiously, Cabrera’s and Cobb’s Triple Crown seasons are the only times an individual Tiger has claimed both the batting title and home run championship in the same year.
Home Runs and RBI: 1991 Cecil Fielder 44 HR, 133 RBI 1990 Cecil Fielder 51 HR, 132 RBI 1946 Hank Greenberg 44 HR, 127 RBI 1943 Rudy York 34 HR, 118 RBI 1940 Hank Greenberg 41 HR, 150 RBI 1935 Hank Greenberg 36 HR, 170 RBI Batting Average and RBI: 1911 Ty Cobb .420 BA, 127 RBI 1908 Ty Cobb .324 BA, 108 RBI 1907 Ty Cobb .350 BA, 119 RBI