Down the Stretch

Secretariat winning the Belmont in 1973

We’re currently two-thirds of the way through horse racing’s Triple Crown with I’ll Have Another having a shot at winning it. Secretariat’s run in the Belmont is still the single greatest thing I ever saw in sport (sorry 1980 hockey team). There’s been a lot of lamenting about it being more than 30 years since a horse came “down the stretch” to win the Belmont and seal a Triple Crown. It’s been even longer than that since baseball had a hitting Triple Crown winner (1967). There hasn’t been one in the National League since 1937. Two men (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams) have won two. In total it’s been done 16 times. Pitchers have been a little more successful, the last pitching Triple Crown winner occurring in 2011 in both leagues. The idea of winning the baseball Triple Crown is even rarer. This means a player led both leagues, not just his own, in all three Triple Crown categories. It’s happened five times among hitters with no repeats. In pitching it has occurred 12 times with Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Sandy Koufax doing it twice (Koufax did it three times).

Winning a Triple Crown goes back a long way. As early as 1877 a pitcher wins one and in 1878 the first hitter follows suit. In the next few posts I want to look at a handful of the men who have won a Triple Crown. Specifically I want to look at the men who accomplished the feat first, the 19th Century players. There are three hitters (Paul Hines, Tip O’Neil, Hugh Duffy) and six pitchers (Tommy Bond, Guy Hecker, Charles Radbourn, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, Amos Rusie). I don’t promise to do all nine, but merely provide a sampling in order to give readers a look at the types of men who strode out onto baseball diamonds a century and a half ago.

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One Response to “Down the Stretch”

  1. William Miller Says:

    I’m looking forward to this series. I’m sure it’ll be a good one.

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