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The Batting Championship Stolen From Eddie Murray

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Eddie Murray is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history: he hit over 500 homeruns, collected over 3,200 hits, posted an .836 OPS across 21 seasons. He broke out as a superstar first baseman with the Baltimore Orioles, who are the team on his Cooperstown plaque, a plaque he received when he garnered over 85% of the ballot total in the 2003 Hall of Fame election cycle.

Yet, it was as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had acquired him via trade for Juan Bell in December of 1988, that perhaps the wildest part of his career took place. In 1990, Murray hit to a stellar .330 batting average, hitting 26 homeruns and walking 82 times to only 64 strikeouts.

Yet, Willie McGee, who won the batting championship in his 1985 MVP campaign, was looking for his second. With 501 at bats in the National League, the Cardinal leadoff hitter had already qualified for the NL Batting Championship. The Cardinals had other plans, seeing as they were on pace (and did) to lose more than 90 games that season. Whiteyball was no more. With that in mind, they traded McGee to the Athletics in the American League on August 29th. McGee, who had hit .335 as a Cardinal, had already had enough at bats to qualify for the NL Batting Crown.

Eddie Murray wasn’t too far behind him, and in the month of September, Eddie Murray kept getting better, even at 34 years young. Murray hit .411 over his last 30 games of the 1990 season to raise his season average to .330. Meanwhile, in the American League, Willie McGee hit .274 the rest of the way. The overall MLB batting stands were as followed: Eddie Murray (.330), Royals’ George Brett (.329) and Athletics Willie McGee (.324).

However, because Willie McGee had enough at bats to qualify in the National League solely for his work as a Cardinal and had hit .334, that ten point dip did not matter and McGee was named the NL Batting Champion for the second time in his career. Eddie Murray became the only hitter to ever lead the league in batting average and not win a batting championship, a distinction that he still holds three decades later.

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