I’m not a baseball fan, but see that Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers has won the Triple Crown — leading the league in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in.

The reason it’s news is that no one has done it in 45 years. The last triple crown winner was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, preceded by Frank Robinson in 1966.  I had to check Wikipedia to discover that, and while there, noticed that Cabrera is only the 17th player to achieve the feat, along with hall-of-famers like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, and Rogers Hornsby. Each of them hit more than three dozen home runs in their winning year — except for Ty Cobb, who took the title in 1909 with a whopping nine homers.  For the entire season.

Still, that was better than the first-ever triple crown winner, Paul Hines, centerfielder for the Providence Grays in 1878, who led the league with 4 home runs, 50 RBI’s, and a .358 average.  True, they played 100 games a year less than today’s major leaguers, but four homers for the year?

It’s hard to imagine a time when a ball going over the wall was as rare as a no-hitter is today.  Hines’ 1878 total is 40 less than Cabrera hit this year, 69 less than Barry Bonds’ record.  I know Little Leaguers who’ve hit 4 dingers in a single game (if you count the inside-the-parkers that rolled to the fence, followed by several lame throws and a couple of dozen parents yelling “Get The Ball!!!!”).

When Hines hit his second homer of that season, the other players probably thought he had an insurmountable lead (“We’ll never catch him now!”).  By number three, they wondered whether he was on steroids. When he hit number four, they were calling Cooperstown to reserve a space for him in the Hall Of Fame.  Unfortunately, no one in Cooperstown knew what they were talking about, since the Hall Of Fame wasn’t built for another 60 years.

By then, they had a new definition for how long it took to hit four home runs.  It was called a double-header.