The Triple Crowns in baseball and horse racing were left unclaimed for forty-five and thirty-seven years, respectively, until 2012 and 2015.
The baseball achievement goes to the batter who led in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in for the season. The racing diadem goes to the winner of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont.
Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967 and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in 2012 won the Triple Crowns in baseball.
Affirmed won the racing Triple Crown in 1978, and American Pharoah won it in 2015.
Only two players have won the baseball award twice, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams. Only seventeen in total have ever won it.
In 99 years of horse racing, only twelve horses have won the Triple Crown. Between Affirmed and American Pharoah, thirteen horses won the Derby and the Preakness but lost the Belmont. Justify will race in the Belmont on June 8th having already won the Derby and the Preakness. Ergo, we may have another Triple Crown winner in racing this year.
There are good reasons for both droughts to have occurred.
In baseball, the existing criteria is outmoded and outdated due to changes in the way the game is played. MLB should consider the category of OPS (on base + slugging), a sabermetric statistic, as a substitute for batting average in that it quantifies the ability of a player both to get on base and to hit for power. A recent addition to the computerized approach to the game, it has gained prominence and acceptance by fans as a more accurate evaluation of a batter’s prowess. Had the statistic been in effect in Babe Ruth’s time, it would have earned The Bambino five Triple Crowns, so good was he.
In horse racing, the three races are different distances, ranging from one and a quarter mile in the Derby to one and three/sixteenths of a mile in the Preakness to one and a half miles at Belmont. It is the extra distance at Belmont that has taken the measure of those thirteen horses who won the first two legs. They simply lacked the stamina to go the distance.
Of special note is a nod to the greatest horse ever, Secretariat, who in 1973 won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then took the Belmont by a margin of thirty-one lengths, going away.
The winner of the racing Triple Crown is truly the best three-year-old horse, magnificently trained, pure bred, and courageous, a champion in every sense of the word. Many owners have realized the futility of trying to win all three races and have kept their horses out of of one or two of the races.
In some cases, a more rested horse winning the Belmont has denied a Triple Crown to a horse entered in all three races. That is unfair.
But hail to the twelve champions who have run, and won, all three.