Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has made history as the first Latino to win an MLB Triple Crown. He wrapped up the American League titles in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and runs batted in (139) when Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton failed to homer in a game against the Oakland Athletics and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels could not close the gap in batting average. Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees hit two home runs to pull within one of Cabrera, but was removed from his game with the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning.
Cabrera is the twelfth man to win a Triple Crown. He is the first since Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in 1967. The last National League Triple Crown winner was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937.
By winning the Triple Crown Cabrera has done something that no Latino ballplayer has done since the game was integrated in the late 1940′s. Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles is the only African-American to accomplish the feat. He did it in 1966.
One has to remember that before 1947 there were little if any minorities playing major league baseball. The Washington Senators signed several players from Cuba and a few other teams followed suit. The Senators were especially active signing Cuban ball players during World War II when major league rosters were depleted. However, Latino players outside of Cuba were not signed by big league teams until after Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Since then there have been many great Latino players. Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates may arguably be the best of them all. He won batting championships, a Most Valuable Player award, was a perennial NL All-Star and won two world’s championships.
Orlando Cepeda played 17 years in the majors. He won Rookie of the Year in 1958 and MVP in 1967. Cepeda led the Cardinals to a world’s championship in ’67. In 1961 with the San Francisco Giants he led the NL in home runs and RBI. It is the closest any Latino had come to winning a Triple Crown before Cabrera.
Others who did not win a Triple Crown include Tony Oliva, Tony Perez, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez. Rodriguez is the only one still active. Like Cepeda, Rodriguez has led the league in home runs and RBI in the same season. He has done this twice in 2002 and 2007. The fact that none of these men did it does not diminish them in any way. It just shows how hard it is to accomplish the feat.
With less than a week to go in the 2012 season Cabrera led the AL in batting average and RBI. He was one behind Hamilton in home runs. Cabrera passed Hamilton on Monday when he hit number 44. Because Hamilton did not hit one Wednesday Cabrera only had to stay ahead of Trout in order to win the crown. He did and guaranteed himself a place in baseball and sports history as the twelfth man to win an MLB Triple Crown and first since 1967.
Cabrera is also the first Latino ever to accomplish the feat.