KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Miguel Cabrera became the 15th player to win baseball’s Triple Crown on Wednesday night, the reluctant superstar thrust into the spotlight by joining an elite list that includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.
The Detroit Tigers‘ slugger topped the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in the major leagues since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “I can’t describe the feeling right now.”
Cabrera’s achievement wasn’t assured until the Yankees pinch-hit for Curtis Granderson in their 14-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Granderson had homered twice to reach 43 for the year, tied with the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and one shy of Cabrera.
Cabrera went 0 for 2 against the Royals before leaving in the fourth inning to a standing ovation. He finished the regular season hitting four points higher than Angels rookie Mike Trout, his toughest competition for AL MVP. Cabrera was the runaway leader with 139 RBIs.
“I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title,” Yastrzemski said in a statement, pointing out that his Red Sox advanced all the way to the World Series when he won one of baseball’s most coveted titles.
“It was hard the last two days because everybody talked about it. I just had to focus, I had to go out there and do the job,” Cabrera said. “The hardest part was to go out there and focus and win games. I said, `If we win the division, everything would take care of itself.”
Commissioner Bud Selig also offered his congratulations, calling the Triple Crown “a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history.”
The crowd at Kauffman Stadium gave Cabrera a standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out in the fourth but remained in the game, allowing Leyland to remove him with two outs to another standing ovation from thousands of appreciate fans.
Cabrera high-fived his teammates as he entered the Detroit dugout, then walked back to the top step and waved his helmet. When the feat became official, it was displayed on the center-field scoreboard to another standing ovation.
“I would say without question he’s enjoyed it. How could you not enjoy what he’s done if you’re a baseball player?” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I doubt very much, knowing him, that he necessarily enjoys all the extra attention, and all the extra conversations he’s had to have. It’s kind of out of his realm in personality, to be honest with you.”
Cabrera’s pursuit of history has occurred largely in the dark, though, overshadowed by thrilling pennant races, the sheer enormity of the NFL _ even the presidential election.
An event that in other years might dominate headlines has been mostly cast aside.
“The entire baseball world should be here right now,” said Tigers ace Justin Verlander, the reigning AL MVP, who may soon watch that award get handed off to his teammate.
Perhaps part of the void has to do with Cabrera’s very nature.