Cubs' team Triple Crown hitters, Part 1

Cody Bellinger batted .307 in 2023.

That was the highest average among the 8 Cubs who had at least 324 plate appearances, 2 per game.

Bellinger led all Cubs in runs batted in, with 97.

He tied Christopher Morel for the most home runs, 26.

According to my research, Bellinger became the 27th Cub since 1901 to win the team batting Triple Crown.

He was just the second to do so in the last 21 seasons. Anthony Rizzo did it in 2015, when he batted .278, with 31 homers and 101 RBI.

11 of the 27 came in a span of 18 years, 1955-72, then only 2 in the next 27 years, and both of those in strike-shortened seasons, 1981 and 1994.



15 different Cubs have led in all 3 categories in a season.

4 of those combined to do it 14 times, more than half of all 27.

Here are the 15, from most times to least, in alphabetical order by last name in each group, with the years they did it in parentheses after their name:

4: Ernie Banks (1955-56, 1958-59), Sammy Sosa (1994, 2000-02), Billy Williams (1965, 1970-72)

3: Ron Santo (1963, 1966-67)

2: Ray Grimes (1921-22)

1: Cody Bellinger (2023), Bill Buckner (1981), Frank Chance (1905), Frank Demaree (1936), Rogers Hornsby (1931), Derrek Lee (2005), Hank Leiber (1939), Andy Pafko (1948), Anthony Rizzo (2015), Heinie Zimmerman (1912)


The top 4 are among the Cubs' most revered players. They also are the 4 who hit the most home runs as a Cub.

Ryne Sandberg, who hit the fifth most, led in homers 4 times and in batting average twice. In 1991, he led in both, but not in RBI. He had the most RBI only once, in 1990, tying with Andre Dawson.

The least familiar 1-time Triple Crown winners probably are Demaree and Leiber. Maybe Pafko, too.

But only hard-core fans likely have ever heard of Grimes, the only Cub other than the Big 4 to wear the crown more than once.



Oscar Ray Grimes was a 5-foot-11, 168-pound first baseman who earned the unwelcome nickname of "Bummer."

He was born 1893 in Bergholz, Ohio, located near the state's eastern border with Pennsylvania.

He was 22 in 1916, when he began his professional career with the Durham Bulls of the North Carolina League.

Grimes spent the next 4 seasons with Bridgeport, Conn., of the Eastern League. After batting .364 in the last of those years, 1920, he was called up in September by the Red Sox. He went 1 for 4 and drew a walk in his only game.

In October, the Red Sox returned him to Bridgeport.

On Nov. 11, Grimes was sold again, to the Cubs.



Here is all the Chicago Tribune wrote about the transaction:

"President [Bill] Veeck of the Cubs announced the purchase of Ray Grimes from the Bridgeport club of the Eastern League, managed by Ed Walsh, former White Sox star.

"Grimes is a twin brother of Roy Grimes of the Giants. Ray is a first baseman and Roy a second sacker.

"The Cub purchase was with the Red Sox at the end of the season, but the Boston club did not complete the deal."



This appeared in the newspaper's April 10 discussion of the prospects for Manager Johnny Evers' team:

"First base is the theoretical weak spot in the Evers combination. Much depends on the ability of Ray Grimes to do the work formerly assigned to Fred Merkle.

"If he falls down it probably will devolve of Turner Barber to hold down the first base job, and that will weaken the outfield."


Grimes stood tall right from Opening Day, April 13, when he singled home a run in his first at bat.

At the end of the month, through 11 games, his average was .283, with no homers and 5 RBI.

In May, he hit safely in 23 of 25 games and slashed .387/.491/.548, for an OPS of 1.040, with 7 doubles, 1 triple and 2 homers. He drove in 14 runs.

Grime's slash line for the season stood at .356/.469/.492. On June 8, when he made 2 singles and 2 doubles, it reached .365/.474/.497, for an OPS of .971.

Those would be his peak batting average and OPS for the year.



While his OPS slipped steadily, winding up at .857, his average was as high as .360 on July 13 and was .334 at the end of the month, when he had 3 homers and 45 RBI.

Grimes' average fell to .314 after he averaged only .221 in his first 22 games of August, with no homers and just 7 RBI. Then he smacked 7 hits in 3 games, including a double in each.

Beginning that day, in his final 30 games he slashed .353/.411/.598, an OPS of 1.009, to finish the year at .321/.408/.450, .857.



He knocked in 27 runs, for a total of 79, which was 25 more than runnerup Turner Barber, who also ranked second in average, at .314.

And after having hit only 3 homers in his first 135 games, Grimes hit 3 in his next 6, the middle one a walk-off against Brooklyn, as the Cubs' first batter in the ninth inning.

His solo shot in the fifth inning against the Giants 3 days later tied Grimes for the team lead with Max Flack. Neither homered again, enabling Grimes to claim the team Triple Crown.



To put Grimes' numbers in perspective, his .321 average was 14th in the National League and 30th in both leagues. Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals topped the NL, at .397, and Harry Heilmann of the Tigers led the AL, at .394.

14 of the 15 other teams had a leader with an average higher than Grimes'. The lone exception was the Athletics, last in the AL, whose high mark was .315.


Grimes' 79 RBI tied 2 others for 29th most in both leagues. A total of 16 players had at least 100. Babe Ruth drove in 168, 29 more than anyone else.


Ruth's 59 home runs broke his year-old record of 54. Bob Meusel, brother of Irish, and Ken Williams were a distant second, with 24.

NL leader George "High Pockets" Kelly hit 23, followed by Hornsby with 21.

They topped a dozen NL batters finished with at least 10. Grimes was among 6 with 6.

Only 2 teams had a player to hit fewer than 6: the Red Sox (5) and Reds (4).



In late January of 1922, Irving Vaughan of the Tribune surveyed the Cubs' personnel for the upcoming season.

"Because the present roster does not appear likely to turn up anything sensational for first base, it is safe to figure Ray Grimes a fixture at the position," Vaughan wrote. "He isn't a [Hal] Chase or [George] Sisler, but is fairly steady and learned considerable last season."


On April 9, with Opening Day just 3 days away, Frank Smith wrote:

"Grimes appears to have clinched the first base job, on account of his heavy hitting. [Walt] Golvin has been retained, for he is an exceptionally clever fielder and more sensational than Grimes, but lacks the Grimes punch at the plate, and that is one thing the Cubs need."


Golvin would wind up playing exactly 2 games for the Cubs in 1922 -- the only 2 of his big league career. In those games, on April 15 and 23, he took over for Grimes in late innings of lopsided games. He went 0 for 2, reaching once on an error, and earned an RBI on a groundout.

Grimes played in 138 games, starting the Cubs' first 65 and 75 of their first 76 before missing 9 with an injury in the third week of July.

He appeared in the next 7, sat out 7 more, then was in the lineup for 53 of the final 54.



Grimes batted only .237 in the first 11 games, then went 8 for 15 in the next 3, with 2 doubles, a home run and 9 RBI. After 2 more games, he finished the month at .339.

His average at the end of the 4 subsequent months was .349, .344, .363 and .367. The latter matched his high at any point more than 2 games into the season.

Grimes cooled off in September plus the season finale on Oct. 1, batting .315, to wind up at .354 and edge Hack Miller for the team batting title by 2 points.

The RBI race was anything but close. Grimes' 99 beat runnerup Miller by 21.

Grimes hit 14 homers, more than double his 6 the previous season and 2 ahead of Miller. Each homered only once beginning Aug. 30.


Grimes' .354 batting average was third highest in the NL, behind Hornsby (.401) and Lew Fonseca of the Reds (.361). It was seventh overall. Sisler (.420) and Cobb (.401) were 1-2 in the AL.


Grimes tied for seventh in homers in the NL and tied for 14th overall. Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals (42) and Ken Williams of the Browns (39) were the league leaders.


Grimes' 99 RBI tied for 10th most in both leagues and 5th in the NL, which Hornsby led with 152. Williams was the overall king, with 155. A total of 9 players reached triple digits. Ty Cobb was 1 of 2 American Leaguers who, like Grimes, fell 1 short of 100.



Grimes achieved his team Triple Crown in 1922 despite continued pain in his vertebrae. On May 3, 1923, he aggravated the injury while sliding into third base and was out of action for 16 games.

He pinch hit on May 26, went 3 for 5 the next day, then was sidelined again.

"Ray Grimes, first sacker of the Cubs, will be operated on for a hernia today at the Henrotin Hospital," the Tribune revealed on June 12.

"At the time of his injury at St. Louis, doctors declared that Grimes had fractured two of his vertebrae. Now the physicians think that the hernia is keeping the big first sacker from recovering."


Grimes was gone for 68 games, nearly half a season, ending any chance of leading the team in average, RBI and homers for a third straight season.

When he went under the knife, Grimes was batting .313, with no homers and 11 RBI.

In 45 games after his return on Aug. 6, he batted .336, homered twice and knocked in 26 runs to finish at .329, with 2 homers an 37 RBI.



His average was 10 points higher than the .329 by both Bob O'Farrell and Jigger Statz, but Grimes had only 245 plate appearances, too few to qualify for best average.

His 37 RBI were just seventh best on the team, far behind the 88 by co-leaders Bernie Friberg and Hack Miller.

Miller led in homers, with 20, followed by Friberg and O'Farrell, each with 12. Five others had more than Grimes' 2, a number matched by a pair of rookies: Allen Elliott, a 22-year-old who had been purchased to fill in for Grimes during his absence, and pitcher Tony Kaufman.



Grimes' 1924 season was all too similar to 1923. He was batting .336, with 5 homers and 32 RBI, through 41 games, the last 2 a Memorial Day doubleheader on Saturday, May 30.

In the second game, Grimes was heading for second and collided with the second baseman.

"An X-ray plate revealed that two ribs had been jarred loose from their moorings," the Tribune reported the next day. "He probably will be able to resume play when the Cubs open at New York [on] Wednesday."


Far from it. He missed 15 games, played in 10 between June 21 and July 8, then a week later was sent to the Cubs' top farm club in Los Angeles.

A one-paragraph item in the Tribune, filed from the West Coast, said:

"The Cubs' willingness to send Grimes here is regarded more as a favor to the local club than the result of any dissatisfaction with big Ray's major league performance. Full terms have not yet been agreed to."


On the day he was sold, Grimes was batting .299, with 5 homers and 34 RBI in 51 games.

He never returned to the Cubs. In his 4 seasons, he slashed .331/.418/.490, for an OPS of .907 and an OPS+ of 137. His WAR was 10.8.

Grimes played exactly 400 games as a Cub. He made 474 hits, including 96 doubles, 25 triples and 27 homers. He walked 197 times and struck out only 120.

He drove in 248 runs.



Grimes stayed in Los Angeles through 1925, then played for Columbus and Toledo of the American Association in 1926.

The Phillies bought him on June 21, and in his return to the big leagues he batted .297, with no homers and 16 RBI, in 32 games before being released on Aug. 13.

He played 4 more seasons in the minors, through 1930, then retired at age 36, after 1,462 games at all levels over 15 years.

Grimes was only 59 when he died of a heart attack in 1953 while working at a company in his native Ohio that made chinaware.


TOMORROW: More about Cubs' leaders by season in average, homers and RBI

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