Believe it or not, it has been 43 years since a major league baseball player captured the Triple Crown. The jewels in this elusive crown are batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.
Only a blessed few are in this elite class. Sixteen men, yes only sixteen men in the history of major league baseball have achieved such an incredible individual feat.
The first ball player to wear the Triple Crown was Paul Hines of the Providence Grays in 1878. The center fielder had 4 home runs, 50 RBI, and a .358 average. These numbers are far from eye popping due to fewer games and lack of statistical upkeep.
The first player from a Boston based club could say he was the top offensive player in baseball. His name was Hugh Duffy who played center field for the Boston Beaneaters. The Rhode Island native clouted 18 homers drove in 145 RBI and had an incredible .440 batting average.
The next Boston slugger to dominate the offensive stat sheet was you guessed it, The Splendid Splinter. Ted Williams has two Triple Crowns in his trophy case. Teddy Ballgame won his first in 1942 before going into the service. He batted .356 with 36 round trippers and 137 RBI.
Ironically, Ted Williams did not win the Triple Crown in 1941 when he eclipsed the .400 BA mark by hitting an astonishing .406. He is the last player to achieve such a milestone
Even a world war couldn’t even tarnish Williams’ offensive dominance. His second year back on the diamond, Williams hit .343 with 32 home runs and knocked in 114 runs. The Splendid Splinter terrorized opposing pitching to be the king of the batter’s box yet again.
The last player to win the Triple Crown ironically was the man who replaced Williams in left field.
Carl Michael Yastrzemski became the heir apparent to patrol the grass in the shadows of the Green Monster. Yaz, as he was nicknamed, had very productive years since his rookie season of 1961. Captain Carl would average 16 home runs, 77 RBI and a .94 average in his first six years in the league with the Red Sox.
Yaz had been a three time all star.
He had gold gloves.
He had a batting title on his resume as well, but the post season had eluded him and his team.
However, 1967 would prove to be a special year for Yaz, the Red Sox, and the city of Boston. The Red Sox just came off a dismal season in 1966, finishing ninth out of ten teams in the American League. Only the New York Yankees had a worse record than Boston (those were the days).
The drought between pennants now reached 20 seasons.
Carl Yastrzemski was poised for greatness and 1967 would be his stage.
The Red Sox was a in a dogfight most of the season. They were in battle royal with the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox to be king of the hill of the American League.
Yaz came through in the clutch as he did through the Impossible Dream year. Boston had no room for error in the last week of the season. One prolonged losing streak may knock them out of playoff contention yet again.
Boston trailed the league leading Twins by one game going into the final series of the season. Yaz went 3 for 4 with a homerun and four runs batted in to help the Sox to a 6-4 victory.
The top of the American League hill could only have one king and Yaz was ready to dash Minnesota’s playoff hopes in a cloud of dust.
Both teams stood at 91-70 on October 1, 1967.
Yastrzemski was poised for yet another heroic performance.
In front of 35,770 Fenway faithful and trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox put a five spot on the board.
And of course Yaz was right in the middle of it.
The Sox would go on to win the season finale 5-3, ignited by Captain Carl’s 4 for 4 showing and his two RBI.
Yaz heard the bell and in a very big way when the pressure was on. In the final six games of the 1967 season, Yastrzemski hit a mind boggling .619 in 21 at bats.
Great players grasp greatness and don’t let go.
And Yaz wouldn’t let go.
The Red Sox won the pennant for the first time since 1946 and would face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Yastrzemski would yet again thrive in the spotlight. He batted .400 with three homeruns and five RBI, but it wasn’t enough.
The Sox would fall short in another grueling seven game World Series loss to the Cards.
The World Championship drought was now at 49 years.
The Impossible Dream team brought excitement back to the hallowed ground of Fenway Park and had Boston in baseball frenzy.
Number Eight had his best career season in 1967 and it was no coincidence that he was the sparkplug that made the Red Sox motor hum.
Carl Michael Yastrzemski finished the season first (tied) in home runs with 44, first in RBI with 121, and first in batting with a .326 average.
He is the last player to capture the now elusive Batting Triple Crown title.
And no one is more deserving.
A teammate who put team always before himself.