The month of April gives sports fans two great events to usher in the warm weather. They are opening day in baseball and the Masters Tournament in golf. Not being a fan of golf (having never played) why do I put these two different sports in the same sentence. Yes, they both occur in April but that is not my reason. While listening to the discussion of the Masters on sports radio the feat of accomplishing golf’s Grand Slam is talked about. For those of you who like me do not follow golf winning the Grand Slam in golf means in April winning the Masters, in June winning the U.S. Open, in July winning The Open Championship, and in August winning the PGA Championship. All four tournaments must be won in the same year. Since the Masters began in 1934, this feat has never been accomplished. The player who came closest to accomplishing the Grand Slam was Tiger Woods when he won all four of these tournaments consecutively over two years, 2000 and 2001. Tiger’s feat was subsequently called The Tiger Slam. The only four golfers to win all four of these championships during their careers (but not in the same year) were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Ben Hogan. This feat is called golf’s Career Grand Slam.
So what feat in baseball do I think about when the Grand Slam in golf is discussed? The words grand slam in baseball refers to hitting a home run with the bases loaded. So the words home run come to mind. Adding the terms batting average and RBI to home run we are now talking about the Batting Triple Crown in baseball. A batter achieves The Batting Triple Crown when he leads either league in the three statistical categories of batting Average (BA), home runs (HR), and runs batted in (RBI) for the same season. These three categories represents a batter’s hitting skill, hitting for power, and creating runs for his team. Most recently in 2012 Miguel Cabrera earned the Batting Triple Crown, replacing Carl Yastrzemski (1967) as the last player to achieve this. Yastrzemski in 1967 actually tied with Harmon Killebrew for the league lead with 44 home runs. The Career Batting Triple Crown is accomplished when a player wins or ties for the three titles of BA, HR, and RBI but not in the same season.
Since the American League joined the National League in 1901 the list of Batting Triple Crown winners include the following 12 players: Nap Lajoie (1901), Ty Cobb (1909), Rogers Hornsby (1922, 1925), Jimmy Foxx (1933), Chuck Klein (1933), Lou Gehrig (1934), Joe Medwick (1937), Ted Williams (1942, 1947), Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), and Miguel Cabrera (2012). Every player on this list except Cabrera (who is not eligible) has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Unlike the Grand Slam in golf two players can win the Triple Crown for the same season. The 1933 season actually had two winners, one in each league.
In the years to come will we have our first Grand Slam winner in golf or our next Batting Triple Crown winner? Since we have never had a Grand Slam winner in golf one might vote for the Baseball Triple Crown occurring first. But there are also good arguments for the Grand Slam in golf occurring first. In golf starting with the year 1934 and ending with 2014 there could have been a maximum of 81 Grand Slam winners; whereas, in baseball from 1901 to 2014 there could have been a maximum of 114*2 =228 possible winners. This makes the 14 Batting Triple Crowns to the 0 Grand Slams less impressive. Many baseball writers believe the Batting Triple Crown is much more difficult to win today because today’s batters choose to specialize in batting average or hitting with power. The gap of 45 years between 1967 and 2012 demonstrates this. Further, it is more difficult today in baseball since each league has 15 teams instead of 8 teams. What do you think?