Solid and versatile with the glove, Runnels started as a shortstop with the Senators, but ultimately played 644 games at first base, 642 at second, 463 at shortstop, and 49 at third. Twice he led the American League in fielding percentage, at second base in 1960, and at first base in 1961. He was not a good base stealer: in 1952 he set the record for most attempted steals with no successes, at 10. In his career he stole 37 bases and was caught 51 times.
In five seasons with Boston, Runnels never hit less than .314, winning two batting crowns in 1960 and 1962, and just missed the 1958 American League Batting Crown by six points to his teammate Ted Williams on the final day of the 1958 season. On August 30, 1960, in a double-header against the Tigers, Runnels hit 6-for-7 in the first game and 3-for-4 in the second, tying a Major League record for hits in a double-header. In 1962, Runnels played in his third All-Star Game for the American League and hit a home run off the Philadelphia Phillies' Art Mahaffey. He went on to win the American League batting title that year. After the season, however, Runnels was traded to the Houston Colt .45s (forerunners of the Astros) in exchange for outfielder Román Mejías. Runnels was released by Houston early in the 1964 season.
He coached for the Red Sox in 1965-1966, serving as an interim manager for the last 16 games of the 1966 season. Under Runnels, the Sox played .500 baseball and escaped last place by one-half game. However, he was replaced for the 1967 season. Runnels was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in November 2004.
After leaving Major League Baseball, Runnels returned to his native state and opened a sporting goods store in Pasadena, Texas. He helped found and operate a co-ed camp, Camp Champions in Marble Falls, Texas, which is still in existence. After suffering a stroke while golfing on May 17, 1991, Pete Runnels died three days later at Bayshore Hospital in Pasadena, Texas.
29° 30.826, -095° 07.439
Forest Park East Cemetery