Glancing Back, and Remembering Pete Runnels
Pete Runnels may well be the least-known batting champion from the 1960s. Yet he was the 1960s’ first two-time batting champion, and the first player ever to win two batting titles while playing two different positions.
Pete Runnels won two batting championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, hitting .320 in 1960 and .326 in 1962.
Runnels broke into the big leagues as a shortstop for the Washington Senators in 1951. Over the next seven years, splitting his time between shortstop and second base, Runnels hit .274 for Washington, with a high mark of .310 in 1956. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1958 season, when he hit .322, the second highest average in the league. He also registered a career high 183 hits in his first year with Boston, fourth best in the league.
As Boston’s starting second baseman, Runnels won his first batting championship in 1960 with a .320 average. Runnels moved over to first base in 1961, hitting .317 that year. As the Red Sox first baseman in 1962, Runnels claimed his second batting title with a .326 average. In his five seasons with Boston, Runnels was one of the league’s most consistent hitters, with a combined average of .320 over that period.
Pete Runnels was the first major league hitter to win batting titles while playing different positions.
His batting title in 1962 wasn’t enough to keep Runnels in a Red Sox uniform, as he was traded in the off season to the Houston Colt .45s for outfielder Roman Mejias. Runnels never hit for power. Mejias did.
Runnels batted only .253 in 1963, his only full season with Houston. He was released 22 games into the 1964 season, and never played again in the majors. Runnels finished his 14-year major league career batting .291 with 1,854 hits. He was an All-Star three times.