(Reuters) - Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win Major League Baseball's Triple Crown after finishing the 2012 season on Wednesday leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
The Detroit Tigers slugger, who had a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in, is just the 15th player to accomplish win the Triple Crown and the first since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
"It has been a great season, I want to thank God, my fans, family and @tigers teammates, can't wait for the postseason," Cabrera posted on his Twitter account after the game.
Cabrera hit one more home run than Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton and New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, and drove in 11 more runs than runner-up Hamilton.
The 29-year-old Venezuelan batted four points higher than Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout to sweep MLB's three major offensive categories.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig saluted Cabrera, who ended the longest drought between Triple Crown winners.
"It is an honor to congratulate Miguel Cabrera on earning the Triple Crown, a remarkable achievement that places him amongst an elite few in all of baseball history," Selig said in a statement.
The husky Cabrera, who has been playing on a sore ankle yet played in all but one of his team's 162 games, left Wednesday's game after two at-bats in Detroit's season finale against the Royals and was saluted with a standing ovation from the Kansas City crowd.
Granderson belted two home runs in New York's closing victory over the Boston Red Sox to move within one, and Trout went 2-for-3 to raise his batting average to .326 as the closest competitor to Cabrera.
Since August 1, Cabrera hit over .340 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs to lead the Tigers in their battle to overtake the front-running Chicago White Sox and win the American League Central Division title.
Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski, the only two living previous winners of the Triple Crown, joined in the congratulations.
"Miguel has been outstanding all year long by coming to play every day, showing his discipline at the plate and making the most of his great talent," Robinson, who registered the rare triple in 1966, said in a statement.
"I am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title," said Yastrzemski, whose Boston club also went to the World Series in his Triple Crown year. "I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox 'Impossible Dream' team."
Cabrera had his standout offensive year despite shifting across the diamond this season, moving from first base to play third base to open the position for Prince Fielder, who signed with Detroit as a free agent in the off-season.
Has been one of Major League Baseball's best hitters from early on in his career with the Florida Marlins, where he broke in as a third baseman.
Cabrera belted 33 home runs, drove in 112 runs and batted .294 as a 21-year-old in his second big-league season that started his active streak of nine consecutive seasons with over 100 RBI for the career .318 hitter.
The Tigers open the playoffs on Saturday at Comerica Park in Detroit against the AL West division winning Oakland Athletics.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)