KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As uncomfortable as it made Miguel Cabrera, he had to stand there and take it - the appreciation of the baseball world.
Manager Jim Leyland pulled him with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, his special place in baseball lore secured, because he thought the historic occasion merited the proper recognition. A moment 45 years in the making required the necessary visual validation. It was important that all saw something many honestly thought they never would again.
This was a coronation.
The humble king got his crown.
Actually, he got three.
A relieved Cabrera, stationed at third base, walked off the field to wildly enthusiastic cheers and applause of fans, teammates and opponents Wednesday night. He was safely distanced from his last statistical pursuers. Cabrera tipped his cap to the crowd. Leyland and Prince Fielder hugged him as he entered the dugout.
But the crowd wouldn't cease its standing tribute until the slugger reluctantly conceded to a curtain call.
But the magnitude of what Cabrera accomplished didn't hit him until he was in the clubhouse with Fielder and Justin Verlander, watching the closing innings of the Tigers' 1-0 victory on television when cameras captured Major League Baseball's official announcement on the Kauffman Stadium scoreboard with the unveiling of a commemorative Cabrera Triple Crown logo.
"All I could think of then was 'Wow, I really did it,' " Cabrera said. "It's just unbelievable. That's the only thing that I could say.
"It was great that I could share it with my teammates."
After the Triple Crown became official, Verlander gave Cabrera a luxurious watch he had inscribed with "Congratulations, Miguel Cabrera, 2012 Triple Crown."
"He's been supporting me through this all season," Cabrera said. "I'm just so happy to be a part of this team. (The Triple Crown) belongs to them as much as me. I don't do it without them."
Cabrera is no doubt ecstatic that he has joined such selective company as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig among others as Triple Crown winners. But, you better believe, he's even happier now that the chase is done, the bulk of the attention will return to the Tigers' playoff objectives.
But Wednesday night was deservedly Cabrera's solo stage.
MLB released statements from the two living previous Triple Crown winners, Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Robinson, as well as commissioner Bud Selig.
"I'm glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the American League Central title," Yastrzemski said. "I was fortunate enough to win this award in 1967 as part of the Red Sox's Impossible Dream Team."
Robinson won his Triple Crown in 1966 with Baltimore. He thought Cabrera's achievement was more challenging than those five decades ago because of the more specialized relieving in baseball.
"This is an incredible accomplishment for a gifted young man," Robinson said, "and Miguel should be proud of his all-around excellence and consistency throughout the season."
Selig called it a "remarkable achievement that places him among an elite few in all of baseball history."
It was another day at the office when Cabrera strolled into the clubhouse about 3 hours before the first pitch, appearing business-like in dress - a gray pinstripe suit - and deportment. He didn't even briefly glimpse at the televisions in the clubhouse, each of which featured the Texas-Oakland game.
The interest in the outcome was two-fold.
The Athletics' 12-5 victory improved the odds of the Tigers playing them in the division series. But the more immediate concern was Josh Hamilton, the biggest potential spoiler to the Triple Crown. He sat one home run behind Cabrera's 44.
Whenever Hamilton came up to bat, many of Cabrera's teammates huddled around the television. The A's brought in a left-handed reliever, Jerry Blevins, specifically to pitch to Hamilton. When Blevins struck him out, Jose Valverde jumped up from his seat, pumping his fist. Verlander and Don Kelly gave each other a fist bump.
Cabrera remained emotionless, sitting in front of his cubicle, holding court with rookie Avisail Garcia.
"His teammates," Leyland said, "want this for him probably more than he does."
The crowd of 30,383 at Kauffman Stadium - the Royal sold an amazing 12,503 tickets on the day of the game - stood in salute of Cabrera as he left the on-deck circle in the first inning. Many Royals players stood at the top step of their dugout and applauded. Flashes popped. Video phones purred. Everyone wanting to frame a historic occasion once thought impossible with the pitching specialization of the game over the past 20 years.
A Venezuelan flag waved in tribute a few rows behind the Tigers' dugout. Cabrera becomes the first Latin-born player to win the Triple Crown. When Cabrera took his defensive position in the bottom of the first, Kansas City third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez congratulated him.
Cabrera finished with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
For those too young to remember when Yaz and Robinson did it, the idea of a Triple Crown assumed the stature of one of those embellished urban legends. This was a big deal because it was easily forgotten that placing first in the most important offensive categories was possible.
Alex Avila kidded Quintin Berry about not knowing when the last time a Triple Crown happened.
"He didn't know who (Yastrzemski) was," Avila said. "There are a lot of guys who don't know who last did it, or what it's all about. That's why there's been a lot of discussion about it."
The discussion won't ebb soon, and Cabrera will have to handle it with the same grace he exhibited during the pursuit. He might not like the attention. But that's what he gets for being a once-in-a-generation ballplayer.