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Why Was Boston the Home to AL Batting Titles in the 1960s?
Prior to 1967, Boston Red Sox fans had little to cheer about, year in and year out, in terms of their team’s performance on the field … with one exception. Chances were the Red Sox would produce the American League’s batting champion. In fact, Boston’s 5 batting championships during the 1960s were the most for any American League team, and represented exactly half the AL batting titles won during the decade.
Things started off strong for Bosox hitting in the 1960s when Pete Runnels took the league batting crown with a .320 average in 1960. Runnels had finished second to Ted Williams in the batting race just 2 years earlier, and he was the first Boston batting champion other than Williams since 1950, when Billy Goodman led American League hitters with a .354 average. (Yes, Williams led the league with a .388 average in 1950, but did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the championship.)
Runnels repeated as batting champion in 1962, hitting .326 (as a first baseman; he played second base when he won the batting title in 1960). Runnels was traded to the Houston Colt .45s the following winter.
With Runnels gone, another Boston hitter stepped into his place and claimed the AL batting title for 1963. That was Carl Yastrzemski, the third-year left fielder who led the American League with a .321 average.
The left-handed-hitting Yastrzemski would claim 2 more batting crowns in the 1960s, repeating as batting champion in 1967 and 1968. In 1967, Yaz’s .326 average was part of his Triple Crown, which swept the Red Sox into their first World Series in 31 years and Yastrzemski into the Most Valuable Player award for 1967. He repeated as batting champion in 1968 with a .301 average, the lowest league-leading average in baseball history.
The only other American League team with more than 1 batting title during the 1960s was the Minnesota Twins, with Tony Oliva in 1964 and 1965 and Rod Carew with the first of his 7 batting titles in 1969.
And the National League? One team in the senior circuit actually collected more batting titles than the Red Sox.