Tigers' Cabrera wins first Triple Crown in 45 years

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 after joining an elite list that includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.

Cabrera's milestone wasn't official until the Yankees pinch hit for Curtis Granderson in their game against 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 with a .330 average, four points better the Angels' Mike

Trout, his biggest competition for MVP. Cabrera was the runaway

leader with 139 RBIs.

Boston's Carl Yastrzemski was the last player to achieve the Triple Crown in 1967.

"I am glad that he accomplished this while

leading his team to the American League Central title," Yastrzemski said

in a statement.

"I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the

Red Sox's 'Impossible Dream Team.'"

Commissioner Bud Selig said 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 him a

standing ovation before he flied out in the first inning. He struck out

in the fourth

inning 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 milestone 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 before the game.

"I would also add to that I doubt very much, knowing him, that he necessarily enjoys all the extra attention, and all the

extra conversations he has 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.

He's not the boisterous sort, never one to

crave attention. He would rather hang out with a couple of buddies than

stand in

front a pack of television cameras, answering countless questions

about what makes him one of the game's most complete hitters.

"He's not a talkative guy," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila. "One, he doesn't speak English that well, but two, he lets his

ability carry through."

It takes a special breed to hit for average,

power and in clutch situations, which is why there have only been 14

players

to achieve baseball's version of the Triple Crown, an honor roll

that includes iconic players such as Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams

and Lou Gehrig.

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez never accomplished it, failing to win the batting title, and countless other Hall of Fame players

have fallen short of one of sport's rarest feats.

To put it in perspective, consider horse racing's Triple Crown.

The last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year was Affirmed in 1978, more

than a full decade after Yastrzemski's magical summer in Boston.

Whether it's on par with Johnny Vander

Meer's consecutive no-hitters, Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships in

golf, Joe DiMaggio's

56-game hitting streak or Brett Favre's consecutive games streak

for quarterback is open to interpretation, and perhaps some

bar-room debate.

Those who have witnessed it first-hand certainly have their opinions.

"It's pretty amazing," said the Royals' Alex

Gordon, who's watched the drama unfold from his spot in left field.

"Honestly,

his numbers are like that every year. He has a great average,

great home runs, great RBIs. He's a guy who can pull this off,

and it's great for the game."

Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval said he was

particularly proud that the Triple Crown would be accomplished by a

fellow Venezuelan.

Cabrera is from Maracay, along the Caribbean coast.

"I'm excited for the country and for the

fans that support us every single day. It's a big deal in Venezuela

right now," Sandoval

said. "It's exciting, especially because of all the things that

have happened in his career."

Yes, it seems that every fairytale these days carries a troublesome footnote.

In Cabrera's case, it stems from spring

training last year, when he was involved in an ugly drunken driving

incident. According

to authorities in St. Lucie County, Fla., Cabrera refused to

cooperate, directed an obscene gesture at police and even dared

them to shoot him.

The Tigers have been careful to keep him

from having to discuss his personal issues, but by all accounts, Cabrera

has been

a model player ever since. This year, he's the Tigers' nominee for

the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player "who best

represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on

and off the field, including sportsmanship and community

involvement."

"This clubhouse wouldn't be quite as good without him," Leyland said.

While the Triple Crown was assured, the MVP award is not.

On one hand, Cabrera is on the footstep of

history, having dominated the major statistical categories favored by

traditionalists,

the ones that count toward the Triple Crown.

On the other hand, Trout is being championed

by new-school baseball thought, number crunchers who rely on more

obscure measures

such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), derived from several other

statistics designed to judge a player's overall contribution

to a team.

Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline said it would be "a shame" if Cabrera didn't win the league's most coveted award, while Royals

manager Ned Yost offered a similar sentiment.

"I think they're both fantastic players, tremendous players, both of them," Yost said, "but if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown,

he has to be the MVP, absolutely."