Miguel Cabrera was standing smack on the third base bag, arms folded — not hitting, not running, not even moving much as he eased through infield practice in Jupiter, Fla., in spring 2003 — when Jack McKeon first saw him and let sputter two magic baseball words: "Can't miss."

Baseball men like himself, McKeon acknowledged Wednesday, normally hold those words secreted in a deep vault with a skull and bones warning: Don't open until you're absolutely sure, and even then, beware.

"You know, you just know," McKeon said. "I knew."

On Wednesday, as the 2012 regular season came to a close, Cabrera completed one of the rarest achievements in sports — baseball's Triple Crown. The Detroit Tigers third baseman capped a spectacular campaign in which he led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI.

Even in a time when a hitter's performance can be dissected and evaluated against a lineup of nouveau metrics — from OPS to WAR to RAR — Cabrera's accomplishment is historic.

A 29-year-old Venezuelan in his 10th big-league season, Cabrera is now positioned atop the game alongside others who are part of baseball's Mount Rushmore — including Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby (twice), Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams (twice) and Mickey Mantle.

Since 1901, only 11 major-leaguers have won the Triple Crown. And it is necessary to go back several baseball generations to find the last, Carl Yastrzemski, in 1967.

Cabrera did it playing his home games at Comerica Park, a stadium with imposing dimensions that usually deprive sluggers of home runs — 402 feet to left field and 422 to dead center. And he was consistent, with batting averages from April through September of .298, .331, .311, .344, .357 and .308. He had no fewer than 20 RBI and no more than 27 in any month.