Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown on Wednesday night. He became the first player to do so in either major league in 45 years, since Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 as he helped the Red Sox win a famous, torrid pennant race from the Tigers.
With only the home-run portion of the Triple crown in the slightest doubt, he started and flied to centerfield and struck out in his two at-bats. Manager Jim Leyland lifted him with two outs in the Royals' fourth; Cabrera took a curtain call after he entered the dugout as the large crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave him a loud ovation. Many fans were on their feet.
After he left the game, Cabrera faced one slight remaining threat. It came from former Tigers teammate and Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who after Cabrera left hit his second homer of the game to get within one, 44-43. (If they had tied, Cabrera still would have been awarded the Triple Crown.) But Granderson never took another at-bat after his 43rd homer; with the Yankees way ahead, he left for a young pinch-hitter named Melky Mesa wearing -- can you believe it? -- No. 67, even as his appearance in the game officially made Cabrera the first Triple Crown winner since '67.
A moment later, the Kauffman Stadium video board proclaimed Cabrera's Triple Crown, complete with a logo for it. The crowd erupted again. The game drew 30,383, with a whopping 12,503 tickets sold Wednesday -- a sign that thousands wanted to come see the Triple Crown winner.
Before the Tigers' game ended, Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson (the only other living Triple Crown winner) and commissioner Bud Selig issued statements praising Cabrera.
Cabrera produced the 16th Triple Crown in history, with the first in 1878. He joined Ty Cobb as the only Tigers to win it. Cobb won the Triple Crown in the Dead Ball Era in 1909 when he hit nine homers -- all of them inside-the-park, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Cabrera became virtually assured of the Triple Crown when Josh Hamilton, his closest pursuer in the home-run race, went homerless Wednesday afternoon in Texas' meltdown loss to Oakland. Hamilton finished tied with Granderson at 43 homers, one behind Cabrera.
Cabrera locked up the RBI title days ago. He ended up with 139 -- 11 more than the runner-up Hamilton.
Cabrera basically wrapped up the third element of the Triple Crown, the batting title, when Angels rookie Mike Trout -- the last man with a realistic chance to catch him -- went 1-for-5 Tuesday night to drop seven points behind him. Cabrera beat Trout by four points, .330-.326.
Cabrera went 0-for-2 on Wednesday night. Like Brahms' Third Symphony, his season was a timeless masterpiece with a quiet ending.
He flied to center in the first inning, and right-hander Luis Mendoza struck him out in the fourth.
At 8:25 in Kansas City, with two outs in the Royals' fourth, manager Jim Leyland sent Ramon Santiago to third to replace Cabrera. Cabrera trotted to the dugout entrance nearest third base. Prince Fielder embraced him. He went down the dugout as one teammate after another greeted him. When he got to the stairway to the field in the middle of the dugout, he bounded up the steps and waved his cap to the cheering fans. Then he re-entered the dugout and resumed going down the line. Leyland didn't budge from his skipper-at-the-wheel pose at the end of the dugout closest to the plate (the end farthest from where Cabrera came out). Between pitches, Cabrera went up and gave him a pat on the back side. Leyland turned around and embraced him. Evidently, Leyland had decided that Granderson wouldn't have the four-homer game he needed to deny Cabrera the Triple Crown, and thus there was no point in leaving Cabrera in the game and risking an injury.
Cabrera was smiling when he arrived in the clubhouse at 3:45 Wednesday afternoon. He still looked totally relaxed a few moments before the game. After he finished warming up in short leftfield, he ran over to the stands along the leftfield line and gave a few autographs. Those fans got the signature of a man who, when it comes to signature seasons, just turned in a John Hancock.
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