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Hal McRae thought the 1976 batting title was stolen from him in a racist plot

Feb 10, 2010, 12:20 PM EDT

From the Department of I Had No Idea This Ever Happened comes the racial controversy over the 1976 A.L. batting title.  The part I knew about: the race came down to the last day between teammates George Brett and Hal McRae. In their last at bats, Brett hit an inside the park home run and McRae grounded out: title Brett.

The part I had no idea about: McRae believed there to be a racist conspiracy in play to throw the title to Brett:

After the game, McRae claimed that the Twins conspired to give Brett the title. Racism, McRae said, was the motivation . . . McRae’s claim centered on the argument that [Twins’ outfielder Steve] Brye was playing too deep
(at Mauch’s instruction) and that Brye likely hesitated on Brett’s
flyball, letting it fall . . . Brett also is quoted as saying, “I think maybe the Twins made me a
present of the batting championship, and if they did, I feel just as
bad about it as Hal does”.

All that came from a 1976 copy of the Sporting News unearthed by the Royals Review blog.  The kicker: it was just in some ordinary story on page 31, unaccompanied by any commentary or anything.  And nothing else ever really came of it.

Royals Review asks the question I had the moment I started reading it: can you imagine if that happened today.  The commentary explosion would definitely be something to behold. Most of it would probably be pretty predictable, of course.

I think it would be worth it alone just to see what the K.C. Star’s Jason Whitlock would do. I can’t decide if he would go with the conspiracy theory angle (his Jeff George articles are classics of the genre), the straight up racism story, or if he would go with what is perhaps his greatest strength and take the really, really contrary angle and, I dunno, accuse McRae of hatching his own conspiracy to create the batting title conspiracy and then use the rest of the column to slam ESPN and the nation’s culture.

  1. kcir737 - Feb 10, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    I worked there was on the field. Hal Mcrea was right.

  2. Wayne Slaven - Feb 10, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    I don’t know how old you are, but this was a big deal in 1976.

  3. hop - Feb 10, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    I think Rod Carew summed up this story very well and if i am going to believe anyone who played in that game its going to be a class act like Rod.Let’s move away from the race card already, its getting old and it is a poor excuse back than and even more so today. Here is what Rod said….
    The story was further complicated by the fact that Rod Carew of the Twins finished third that year, finishing .331. Carew said after the game, “that’s a bunch of crap when they talk about racial stuff.”

  4. Ron - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:24 AM

    That would have been Dane Iorg that was called safe on the play. Which would have been the first out of the inning, and not the end of the game.
    The Cardinals then failed to get the outs they needed to clinch the series. Did anyone see the 2009 playoffs?

  5. The Common Man - Feb 11, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    McRae doesn’t have to comment on it. And to my knowledge, he hasn’t. Again, Hal McRae said these things 34 years ago! Reading is fundamental, people.
    Also, Dane Iorg was whiter than I am. And that’s saying something.

  6. Guy - Feb 11, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    I could have sworn I read somewhere that this had nothing to do with race but rather because McRae was almost a full-time DH. The DH was still in it’s infancy then and the players didn’t view it as a “real” position. The Twins played the ball so that the guy who played in the field would get the title, as opposed to the full-time DH.
    Am I the only one who remembers hearing this (this took place a year before I was born)?

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