The Triple Crown

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In baseball, the existing criteria is outmoded and outdated due to changes in the way the game is played.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.

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18 responses to “The Triple Crown

  1. PAUL E LARKIN

    I don’t think Justify will win at Belmont. You may have noticed that he was fading at the finish at the Preakness and if the race went only another 100 yds, he would have lost. He is younger two yr old also and the races take a lot out of a horse. We shall see, I hope he does it. In the meantime, I just read an rewrite of a Sports Illustrated article on Secretariat and it mentioned something I knew before but still baffles me and that is that when they opened him up, they discovered his heart was twice the size of a normal horse’s heart-31 lengths, unbelievable. PS Did you know that when Yaz won the triple crown, he was not unanimous MVP? Some MN lunkhead from the Star voted for Cesar Tovar…..!

    • I never knew that about Secretariat’s
      heart. Great bit of trivia. Thanks.

    • Paul, more on the Caesar Tovar choice…..There was no gimmick to Tovar’s adaptability. In 1967, he played in 164 games (two ties) and started from four to 70 games at six positions. Max Nichols, the baseball reporter for the Minneapolis Star, voted for Tovar as the MVP, notoriously costing Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski’s unanimous selection in his Triple Crown season.
      From an article in the Mpls Star recently…

  2. Here is an added piece of trivia. My brother Dave, who played baseball at St. John’s
    University, formed a keystone combination
    with Yaz in a town league on Long Island
    the summer before Yaz left for Notre Dame.

  3. How can you “Justify” your comments! Great points Coach, you are always spot on.

    • Thanks, Craig. Glad you enjoy it. Rays a game
      over .500 with a third of the season gone. That’s good news!

  4. How about Justify and Judge for triple crowns!!!!

  5. PAUL E LARKIN

    Stacy, sorry but Mookie Betts has a better chance! Plus he is NOT a Yankee! Ha!

  6. PAUL E LARKIN

    Coach, a little confused on reply about Tovar, please do not tell me that in any way that vote was justified! I know I may come across biased here as a long time Sox fan, but I don’t think, in the history of the MVP in either league, there has been more justification for unanimous than Yaz in 67….if you think there has been, please advise.

  7. No, not at all. I googled to find out who the bozo was who voted against Yaz and found that article. Yaz had an “Impossible Dream Season” in 1967.

  8. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach thank you for the post and the information and distinction regarding the Triple Crowns. I watched the Chipper Jones special over the weekend which was very informative on just how special it is in baseball and other sports to be good, very good, and flat out awesome in more than one aspect of a given sport.

  9. Michael McCann

    Coach 45 years ago, I was lucky to be standing at the finish line at New York’s Belmont Park and watched Secretariat’s running of the 1973 Belmont Stake.
    There are a few special moments in sports history that will never be forgotten – because they demonstrated true greatness. Secretariat’s running of the 1973 Belmont Stakes was arguably the greatest Belmont Stakes — and maybe horse race — ever run.

  10. I couldn’t agree more,Mike. Go Huskers.🏈🏈🏈

  11. Coach you can’t take a vaca! I will be in withdrawal. By the way that was a great call on Judge going yard right when you said it!!!!!

  12. Stacy, the Judge home run call was just look. Vacation will fly by. See you soon.

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