Former Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski thinks that being in a pennant race will help Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in his attempt to win the Triple Crown.
And Yaz should know: He’s the last player to lead his league in batting average, homers and RBI in the same season.
”In ’67, the Triple Crown was never even mentioned once,” Yastrzemski said Wednesday night. ”We were so involved in the pennant race, I didn’t know I won the Triple Crown until the next day, when I read it in the paper.”
Yastrzemski batted .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI in 1967, when the ”Impossible Dream” Red Sox clinched the AL pennant on the last day of the season. Yaz said only once did someone bring up the stat races to him, when pitcher Jim Lonborg told him he would help out by shutting down Baltimore’s Frank Robinson.
Robinson, who won the AL Triple Crown the year before, finished second with a .311 batting average. Harmon Killebrew tied Yastrzemski with 44 homers and finished second with 113 RBI.
Cabrera entered Wednesday leading the AL with a .329 batting average and 133 RBI. He was one behind Josh Hamilton, who had 43 homers entering the night.
The Tigers were tied for first in the AL Central.
”One thing that’s going to help him is he’s in a pennant race,” Yastrzemski said after a pregame ceremony to wrap up the 100th anniversary celebration for Fenway Park.
Baseball had a Triple Crown winner every five years or so in its early days; in fact, it never went more than 10 years without one since the RBI became an official stat in 1920. Before Robinson in ’66, Mickey Mantle won one in ’56 and Ted Williams won a pair in ’42 and ’47.
So when Yaz won his a year after Robinson, few considered the possibility that it would be another 45 years before there would be another.
”I thought somebody would win it a long time ago,” Yastrzemski said. ”Somebody’s got to do it, whether it’s Cabrera this year, or whether it’s going to be next year or the year after. I’m surprised it’s gone this long.”