Cardinals History: Willie McGee Wins NL Batting Title While in AL

Usually, when a player wins a batting title, they have spent the year in that league. That changed on this day in 1990, when Willie McGee won the National League batting title for the St. Louis Cardinals, despite ending the season with the Oakland Athletics.

Winning a batting title was nothing new for Willie McGee. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder had led the National League with a .358 batting average in 1985, and led the league with 216 hits and 18 triples. McGee won the MVP award that season, as he was a key catalyst to the NL Champion Cardinals that year.

Fast forward five years. McGee was one again leading the National League with a .335 batting average, but the Cardinals were mired in the NL East basement. Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics were in need of an outfielder as they made their own push to the World Series. With McGee set to become a free agent at the end of the year, the Cardinals sent him to Oakland for three minor leaguers.

That is where the story gets interesting. At the time of the trade, McGee had enough at bats to qualify for the NL batting title. His .335 batting average was locked into place, with Eddie Murray, Dave Magadan, and Lenny Dykstra all attempting to catch up. When the 1990 season ended on this day, McGee had withstood all challengers, becoming the first player to win a batting title despite finishing the year in a different league.

This moment gets even more interesting. McGee did not exactly struggle in the American League, but did not hit at nearly the same clip with Oakland. His .274 batting average in the AL dropped his overall mark down to .324, sixth in the majors. Meanwhile, George Brett, who captured a batting title in a record third decade, had a .329 batting average. Murray, who did not lead either league, led the majors with his .330 batting average on the season.

McGee had the same sort of fortune when it came to his hits total. He finished the year with a major league leading 199 base hits, but due to the trade, did not lead either league. Oh, the joys of late season trades!

Willie McGee took home his second batting title on this day in 1990. The only thing was, he was not a member of the St. Louis Cardinals when he took home the crown.