After serving in the military from 1945-1948, Pete Runnels got his start in professional baseball in 1949. When he hit .351 in three minor league seasons, Runnels’ contract was purchased by the Washington Senators.
The infielder made his big league debut on July 1, 1951, recording a walk and a single in his first two plate appearances.
Runnels started off as a shortstop and played some second base in his first five seasons. His first 7 seasons came with the Washington Senators. Runnels was solid, hitting .274 with a .354 on-base percentage.
The infielder’s career took flight after a trade to Boston in January, 1958. That season he hit .322, losing the batting championship to teammate and mentor Ted Williams on the last day of the season.
In 1960 his .320 average was enough to earn the batting crown. Two years later his .326 mark again led the league.
His five campaigns in Boston included a .320 average with a .408 on-base percentage and a 125 OPS+. Playing primarily second and first base, Runnels represented the Red Sox in five All Star games.
Baseball expanded in 1962, putting a team in New York and Houston. After the season, Runnels persuaded Boston owner Tom Yawkey to ship him to his native state of Texas.
Runnels’ final two seasons in the big leagues were nondescript. He spent 1963 and 1964 in Houston where he hit .246 for the Colt .45s.
The two-time batting champion’s career numbers include 1,854 hits, a .291 average, and a .375 on-base percentage.
Runnels passed away in 1991 at the age of 63 and was posthumously inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004.
In the collection is this government postcard signed by Runnels in 1953.