erik lundegaard

Leading the League in Doubles and Triples

One recent night when I was having trouble sleeping, I spent time perusing Baseball Reference, came across Cesar Tovar's page, and saw that he'd led the league in both doubles and triples in 1970. I already knew this—I'd even written about it—but this time a light bulb went off. How common was that—to lead the league in both categories in the same year? Who was the last guy to do it? 

Turns out: Pretty uncommon. Tovar's the last guy to do it. 

Searching for the answer, I came across a SABR page by Steve Krevisky on various baseball feats, including leading the league in both doubles and triples in the same season. Here's Krevisky's list:

NO. PLAYER YEAR YEAR YEAR YEAR
1 Honus Wagner 1900 1908    
2 Ty Cobb 1908 1911 1917  
3 Bobby Veach 1919      
4 Rogers Hornsby 1921      
5 Charlie Gehringer 1923      
6 Joe Vosmik 1935      
7 Stan Musial 1943 1946 1948 1949
8 Zoilo Versalles 1965      
9 Lou Brock 1968      
10 Cesar Tovar 1970      

Before going further, how about a hand for Stan the Man? Since the deadball era, this feat has only happened 10 times—and he has four of them. Career, he's 19th all-time in triples (and everyone ahead of him is pre-WWII), and third all-time in doubles (Speaker, Rose). Plus 475 HRs, which, when he retired in 1963, was sixth all-time, behind Ruth, Foxx, Williams, Ott and Gehrig. No wonder he was The Man.

That said, Krevisky's list, I could tell, was old. His list of guys who led the league in doubles and homers in the same year ends with Willie Stargell in 1973 when I knew Albert Belle did it in 1995. So, to make sure, I crunched all the doubles/triples numbers after 1970.

And I couldn't find anyone who'd done it after Tovar.

I did find a few guys who led the league in doubles and triples—just not in the same year:

NO. PLAYERS 2Bs 2Bs 3Bs 3Bs 3Bs
1 Joe Rudi 1974   1972    
2 George Brett 1978 1990 1975 1976 1979
3 Robin Yount 1980 1982 1983 1988  
4 Paul Molitor 1987   1991    
5 Andy Van Slyke 1992   1988    
6 Chuck Knoblauch 1994   1996    
7 Nomar Garciaparra 2002   1997    
8 Bobby Abreu 2002   1999    

Before going further, how about a hand for George Brett? Not just for being a five-time leader but for the 12-year gap in his doubles titles. And how the hell did he lead the league in triples three times with Willie Wilson on his team? Answer: Wilson didn't become a full-time player until 1979, then led the league in triples five times in the ‘80s.

BTW, anyone guessing Bobby Abreu for this list, go to the head of the class. 

Since I kept seeing players from the Kansas City Royals, I wondered how often someone on that team led the league in either category from 1970 to 1990. Answer: 16 times: Brett with 5, Wilson with 5 (triples), Hal McRae twice (doubles), Amos Otis twice (doubles), Lou Piniella (doubles) and Freddie Patek (triples). In the AL, the next closest team is the Milwaukee Brewers with eight: Yount, Molitor, Cooper, Pedro Garcia. Boston has seven, the Twins have five. In the NL, the Expos have eight league leaders, with Houston and Philly at seven each. No one’s close to the Royals.

Anyway, that's the answer to that late-night question: The last man to lead the league in both doubles and triples in the same season is Cesar “Pepe” Tovar in 1970. Nice coincidence: I just happen to have a picture with him that fateful year:

My brother Chris and I with Cesar Tovar in 1970. 

More soon.

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Posted at 07:58 AM on Mon. Apr 22, 2019 in category Baseball  
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