KANSAS CITY -- In the ultimate sign of respect for a visiting player, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera received a standing ovation from the crowd at Kauffman Stadium as he stepped into the batter's box Wednesday night. Then, he stepped into history.
With a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to achieve the Triple Crown, leading the American League in all three categories. Save for a two-homer game from ex-teammate Curtis Granderson to climb within one home run, it was essentially a victory lap.
For the crowd in Kansas City, the players on the field and fans watching everywhere else, it was an appreciation. For Cabrera, it seemed to be a realization.
Cabrera repeated his batting title, becoming the first Tigers player with consecutive batting crowns since Ty Cobb won three from 1917-19.
But it's the Triple Crown that earned the accolades. Major League Baseball's 12th such feat since the RBI became an official stat was the first by a Latin-born player. No one had done it since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
"It is an honor to congratulate Miguel Cabrera on earning the Triple Crown, a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Miguel has long been one of the most accomplished hitters in the game, and this recognition is one that he will be able to cherish for the rest of his career in baseball and beyond. As the Tigers prepare for the postseason, we have a global stage to witness Miguel's talent, which will go down as one of the hallmarks of Major League Baseball's extraordinary 2012 regular season."
Like Yastrzemski, Cabrera pulled away from his closest competitors with a playoff race pushing him. Unlike Yaz, who said he wasn't aware he had done it until the very end, Cabrera was enveloped by the attention in the final days.
Unlike Cabrera, Yastrzemski didn't have two generations of history since the last one. He didn't have any gap at all; Frank Robinson had accomplished it one year before.
"I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on winning the Triple Crown," Yastrzemski said in a statement. "I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title. I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox Impossible Dream Team."
Said Robinson: "Miguel has been outstanding all year long by coming to play every day, showing his discipline at the plate and making the most of his great talent. For me, earning the batting title over Tony Oliva, who we played against in the last series of the year, was the hardest part, and for Miguel, I am sure it was even more challenging, given all the specialized relievers in the game today."
----- Source: MLB.com