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Detroit's Miguel Cabrera becomes first to win baseball's Triple Crown since 1967

Updated: Thursday, 04 Oct 2012 11:38 | Comments

Miguel Cabrera finished with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs
Miguel Cabrera finished with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers last night became the first player since 1967 to hit for baseball's Triple Crown - the award for the player who leads his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.

The 29-year-old Venezuelan finished the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. He becomes just the 15th player of all-time to win the Triple Crown - and the first since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski 45 years ago.

The Triple Crown retained its prestige through what became known as baseball's 'steroid era' in the decade from the mid 1990s - it remained untouched as other, more power orientated, records fell.

It is common for a player to lead his league in two of the three categories, but leading all three has proved elusive in recent decades.

However the Detroit Tigers slugger was not part of any champagne-filled celebration on the pitch last night.

Mindful that Cabrera has had a well-publicised battle with alcohol, tubs of ice in the Detroit clubhouse are stocked with alcohol-free beverages just as they were on Tuesday when the Tigers secured a second consecutive division crown.

After winning the battle of the bottle, Cabrera has now won a place in the record books with a season for the ages that could one day propel the 29-year-old Venezuelan into the Hall of Fame.

"He doesn't drink any more, he doesn't go out, and he doesn't get in trouble" - Justin Verlander

The seven-time All-Star now has 321 home runs and 1,123 RBI in 10 major league seasons.

But away from the ballpark, Cabrera has made headlines with a string of worrying drink-related offences.

Despite the red flags, Detroit traded for the big-hitting infielder in 2007 and signed him to an extension that made him the fourth-highest paid MLB player at the time, a clear gamble that his off-field problems were a thing of the past. They were not.

In October 2009, with Detroit battling for the AL Central crown, Cabrera's wife filed a domestic violence complaint against him after an alleged night of drinking that resulted in an off-season spent in an alcohol treatment programme.

Prior to 2011 Spring Training, Cabrera was in trouble again, arrested on charges of drunk driving and resisting arrest.

But Cabrera rewarded the patience and loyalty of the Tigers organisation by carrying the team through large stretches of a challenging 162-game regular season.

When Detroit signed prized off-season free agent Prince Fielder, Cabrera graciously accepted a move from first base to third base to accommodate the new arrival.

Combining the brute power of a classic slugger and the pure finesse of a leadoff hitter, Cabrera is now the first player to lead his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

Perhaps Cabrera's most remarkable quality has been his consistency. He has driven in over 100 runs in each of the last nine seasons and hit more than 30 homers in eight of those.

"He's a once-in-a-lifetime player," gushed Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski, who knew better than anyone about the tremendous upside Cabrera could bring to a team having signed him to the Marlins as a raw 16-year-old talent.

Cabrera arrived on the major league scene with a bang, slamming a walk-off home run in his Marlins debut in 2003. In his first game with Detroit in 2008, he celebrated his arrival again with a home run.

Tigers fans hope there will be plenty more to reasons to party in the coming weeks as Detroit makes a run at the Motor City's first World Series title since 1984.

But if the Tigers do win the Fall Classic, any celebration involving Cabrera will be quenched by non-alcoholic drinks.

"He had problems, well-documented, and he's turned things around," said Tigers ace Justin Verlander. "He doesn't drink anymore, he doesn't go out, and he doesn't get in trouble."

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