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South Jersey Baseball History:
Winning Baseball's Triple Crown Is The Rarest Of Honors

Sunday, May 23, 1999

By Charlie Schick
South Jersey Baseball Historical Society

Over the years there have been hundreds of batting champions, as well as, home run and RBI kings that have been crowned throughout baseball history. But when it comes to accomplishing the Triple Crown (leading your respective league in batting average, home runs, and RBI's) that's another story. In fact, since the beginning of the 20th century, major league baseball has experienced a Triple Crown winner only 14 times. Even more limiting is the fact that only 12 major league players have ever claimed the award in that time period, since two Hall of Fame members Roger Hornsby, and Ted Williams have turned the rarest of baseball's offensive honors twice. Hornsby, the St. Louis Cardinals great captured his "Triples" in 1922 and 1925, while the Boston Red Sox splendid splinter Williams posted his magnificent numbers in 1942 and 1947.

The very first American League Triple Crown winner was the Philadelphia Athletics great Napoleon Lajoie, who collected the award in 1901. He completely dominated his league offensively that season by not only having the best average, home run, and RBI numbers, but also finished first in slugging average, total bases, hits, runs scored, and doubles to produce one of the most impressive displays of hitting in the great game's history.

Although two National Leaguers won the title in the eighteen hundreds, Heine Zimmerman of the Chicago Cubs captured the allusive Triple Crown in 1912, to become the senior circuit's first player of the 20th century to accomplish the feat. Zimmerman also was the premier batsman of his league that historical season, as he not only topped National League hitters in Avg., HR's, and RBI's, but added slugging average, total bases, hits and doubles to his string of titles.

The last time the Triple Crown was claimed in the Big Show was in 1967, when Red Sox all time great Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in Avg. 326, HR 44, and RBI's 121. But that was over 30 years ago, and no one since has added his name to baseball's rarest offensive award list. So, while we wait for the next big leaguer to step forward, and produce the numbers worthy of earning the prestigious "Triple," I thought it would be a good idea to check out area scholastic play to see how many Triple Crown winners South Jersey has produced.

This was no easy task, because most early local and area sources did not keep consistent or complete records of all three of the offensive categories in question. Nevertheless, I found a bakers dozen of South Jersey lads that challenged for the Triple Crown award. Of these 13 outstanding athletes, however, only one player made it all the way to reaching baseball's rarest offensive accomplishment.

It appears the first South Jersey scholastic player to make a run at the Triple Crown was a hard-hitting shortstop from Glassboro High by the name of John Tyrell in 1970. Tyrell posted an area best .516 batting average that season, and also led all hitters in RBI's, but his 3 homers were not good enough to win the title, as Gloucester Catholic's Don Pisker claimed the home run crown with 5 round trippers.

Over the next 14 seasons, five additional scholastic players chased the seemingly impossible Triple Crown title, but it was not until 1984 that one of the most serious runs at the "Triple" was made. The outstanding offensive effort came from a rugged catcher from Shawnee High, Andy Flake who rapped 6 homers and drove-in 39 while hitting a strong .509. Flake's 6 home runs tied him with 5 other players for the area title, and his 39 RBI's was South Jersey's best. But, his .509 batting average was only good enough to finish 3rd in the category, as batting champion Joe Mazzeo of Glassboro High posted a mark of .547.

The next legitimate threat to picking up a Triple Crown title came in 1988, when Gloucester Catholic's super shortstop John Kupsey led all area hitters with a .610 average, and 53 RBI's, but his home run total of 8 fell short of claiming the title. That particular season two power-hitting first basemen, Glenn Foley, Cherry Hill East, and Mark Karr, Pennsville, kept Kupsey from winning the Triple Crown, when they both hammered 11 homers to tie for title.

In 1989, however, everything fell in place, and a stocky third baseman/pitcher Angelo Santiago of Buena High produced an offensive barrage that resulted in South Jersey's first and only Triple Crown winner. Santiago's history making season featured a .568 batting average and 45 RBI's, but the most impressive number of his Triple Crown title was his 16 homers that set an all-time South Jersey record. Besides being an offensive force, Santiago also pitched his team to 10 victories, thus combining his bat and arm talents to produce, in all likelihood, the finest area single season results in scholastic baseball history.

Just two seasons ago, 1997, another strapping young player, shortstop/pitcher, Charlie Rogers of Millville High, made a valiant effort at taking a Triple Crown title, but fell just short. Rogers, like Santiago, was a two-way threat, as he hit .573, collected 51 RBI's along with 15 homers, and posted a 8 - 2 pitching record. Although Rogers' offensive numbers certainly appeared good enough to earn a "Triple," his .573 average was a distant fifth behind 1997 batting champ Kevin Kelly of Gloucester Catholic, who rapped the rock for an outstanding .608 mark.

With the 1999 scholastic baseball season fast approaching its close, will another big leaguer or local high school player go on to add his name to the elite list of Triple Crown winners? Certainly young scholastic players like Mike Appalucci, Bishop Eustace, Mike Bloomquist, Riverside, Nick Italiano, Bishop Eustace, Rob Kassekert, Holy Cross, Angel Sanchez, Vineland, or junior shortstop Mike Scanzano of Cherokee High are all capable of providing South Jersey with its second offensive "Triple" hitting king. Here are the outstanding scholastic players who have challenged for the Triple Crown, baseball's rarest honor.

1970John TyrellGlassboroSS.516(3)25
1971Bill ClarkeEasternSS(.350)7[25]
1973Mike DiGiacomoGloucester CatholicOF(.396)736
1975Bob HermanPleasantvilleP/OF.522(2)31
1976Tom McCannWashington Twp.1B(.493)[7]43
1977Giuseppe HarrisRancocas ValleyOF(.327)8[35]
1984Andy FlakeShawneeC(.509)[6]39
1985Jeff CooperBuenaC(.500)1454
1988John KupseyGloucester CatholicSS.610(8)53
1989Angelo SantiagoBuena3B/P.5681645
1990Fran MontoneSt. Joe - Hammonton3B.551(6)43
1993Dan OlsonLower Cape MayOF.53412(44)
1997Charlie RogersMillvilleSS/P(.573)1551
[] = tied     () = did not lead

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