Astros in the Sky
Born: Jan 28, 1928
The Lufkin-born Runnels played seven seasons with the Washington Senators as a middle infielder and hit well but with little power. He was traded to Boston in 1958 and found a friend in the short left field wall at Fenway Park. Runnels boosted his average, spraying liners off the wall, and twice won batting championships (1960 and 1962) playing that way. His highest home run year was ten (1962), but he rode his hitting to five All-Star berths. As his range declined, Runnels played more at first base.
The expansion Colt .45s had one real star that first year. It was Roman Mejias who took the opportunity of regular play to lead the Colts in average (.286), homers (24) and RBIs (76). Figuring they should strike while his value was at a peak, Houston traded Mejias for Runnels in November of 1962.
It was a mistake for both. Mejias slipped back to his norm and Runnels, lacking the comfort of Fenway's monster, slipped noticeably in Houston. He batted .253 with two homers in his first year as a Colt. He hit .196 the following spring before retiring at age 34.
As a Colt .45, Runnels hit .246. For his full career, Runnels batted .291 with 49 homers.
Runnels returned to Boston as a coach and was 8-8 as an interim manager in 1966, the year before the Miracle Red Sox' season. Back in Texas, he ran a Christian camp for teenaged boys out in the hill country. He passed away in Pasadena, TX at the age of 63 from a stroke.