The Rarity of Feats Like Horseracing’s Triple Crown

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Horseracing’s Triple Crown has only been achieved eleven times since its first winner in 1919. Of those twelve, only four have occurred since 1948—3 in the mid 1970s and then American Pharoah this past weekend. The media has been talking about how rare the Triple Crown is, but just how rare is it? Compared to other sports, is winning the Triple Crown really as profound as we all make it out to be?

Horseracing

The Triple Crown has been won 12 times in 97 years, or once every 8.0833 years.

Baseball

In Major League Baseball’s modern era, (1900-present) pitchers have thrown only 21 perfect games. That’s 21 perfect games in 115 years, or once every 5.476 years. Think about it this way, there are 4,860 chances for a perfect game in each year that has 162 games, meaning that there have only been 21 out of approximately 780,000 chances, or 0.00269% of the time.

Hockey

Only 60 times (44 players) has someone scored at least five goals in a single NHL game. Over the NHL’s existence, that’s one every 1.324 years.

Golf

With four major tournaments each year, you’d think this would occur more often, but only 25 times has a golfer won back-to-back majors. That’s 25 since 1860, or once every 6.16 years. 

Basketball

The NBA quadruple double, or when a player records at least 10 in four of these categories—points, assists, rebounds, steals, or blocked shots—in a single game has only been achieved four times since steals and blocked shots began being recorded in 1974. This is one quadruple double every 10.25 years.

Football

The Heisman trophy has been awarded each year since 1935, but only once did the same player win it in multiple years. Archie Griffin, who ended up playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, won it twice—1974 and 1975.

Achieving any of these feats would require different time, talents, and skill, and no one team or athlete is guaranteed at having equal chances of them occurring. We should consider the perceived rarity of this one incredible endeavor—the Triple Crown—and perhaps lend some of that awe, spectacle, and inspiration to others.

Congratulations to American Pharoah and his team on winning the Triple Crown!

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