Runnels lost the 1958 American League Batting Crown to Red Sox teammate Ted Williams on the final day of the season when he went hitless against the Senators while Williams went 2-for-4. Williams hit .403 over his last 55 games of the 1958 season to edge Runnels. Runnels later won both the 1960 and 1962 batting titles, capping a great run with Boston, for whom he hit .320 in five seasons.
Runnels began his career as a shortstop with the Senators in 1951, but the batting titles he later won made people forget that he had a fine glove. A versatile player, Runnels played 644 games at first base, 642 at second and 463 at shortstop.
Runnels was a fine hitter his whole career, but his seven seasons in Washington’s spacious Griffith Stadium masked the fact. When he got to the Red Sox in 1958, he was helped by advice from Ted Williams and others, who told him to just slap the ball into the holes.