Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won baseball's Triple Crown this season.
Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won baseball's Triple Crown this season.

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) – Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela, the Detroit Tigers’ third baseman, is the first player since 1967 to win baseball’s Triple Crown. But is he the first Latino to do so?

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera claims Triple Crown

Media outlets report that Cabrera is the first Latino to end a season leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. But many argue that Ted Williams, considered one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball, was actually the first Hispanic to grab a Triple Crown.

The legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder won the Triple Crown – twice, in 1942 and 1947 – and was the first inductee in the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in February 2002.

In his 1969 autobiography, “My Turn At Bat,” Williams said his heritage was part Mexican via his mother, May Venzor, though he rarely acknowledged it in public.

“(If) I had had my mother’s name, there is no doubt I would have run into problems in those days, the prejudices people had in southern California,” Williams wrote.

Eric Abel, husband of Claudia Williams – Williams’ only child – spoke on the family’s behalf about Cabrera’s Triple Crown win.

“We’re proud that Cabrera is continuing the tradition. It’s a positive thing. But Latinos should have not needed to wait this long to see a Triple Crown winner when they had one for so long already. It’s unfortunate that it had not been celebrated before. Ted was actually very proud of his heritage.”

Growing up, Williams spent time in Santa Barbara, California, visiting his Mexican grandmother, Natalia Venzor, who reportedly spoke little English. Bill Nowlin, who researched Williams’ early life for his new book, “The Kid: Ted Williams in San Diego,” said Williams’ uncle Saul Venzor taught him baseball, according to a 2005 New York Times article.

David McCarthy, Williams’ close friend of 16 years and now the executive director of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, wrote in an e-mail, “I can tell you he was very proud of his mother’s heritage and told me personally that if his name was not Williams, he would have had a tougher time getting into the big leagues back in 1939.”

McCarthy said he knows that Williams would have been very proud of Cabrera and believes that Williams’ experience molded him to be a champion not only for the Latino players but for the Negro league players back in the early days.

In fact, the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame says it plans to honor Cabrera with a Triple Crown display case inside the main entrance when it reopens at the start of the 2013 season.

Not to take the spotlight away from Cabrera (congratulations, Miguel!), but Williams’ heritage and contribution to baseball history should not be overlooked.