McRae came up as a good-hitting but poor-fielding platoon partner for Bernie Carbo in Cincinnati, but found a home in Kansas City as a DH. Famed batting coach Charlie Lau helped him hone his batting talents, and he developed into a remarkably consistent hitter. His aggressive style of play and team-first spirit made him a natural leader.
McRae’s career almost ended before it began when he broke his leg in four places while playing winter ball in Puerto Rico after the 1968 season, but he recovered, batting over .300 six times and twice leading the AL in doubles. McRae was named Designated Hitter of the Year three times by The Sporting News; his 133 RBI in 1982 topped the league and set a Royals record.
In 1976 McRae was edged for the batting title by teammate George Brett, .333 to .332, on Brett’s controversial inside-the-park home run in his final at-bat. McRae’s charges that racism led Minnesota outfielder Steve Brye to intentionally misplay Brett’s fly ball were never proven.
In June 1985, McRae’s son Brian, a shortstop, was selected in the first round of the free agent draft by the Royals. It was thought to be the first time a father and son played for the same organization at the same time. McRae the younger made his major-league debut as an outfielder with Kansas City in 1990, and his father was hired as the club’s skipper in 1991, two years after being inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame.
Hal posted a winning record in his four years as the Royals’ manager, but was fired after the players’ strike hit in 1994. He served as a hitting coach for a number of teams before replacing Larry Rothschild as manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in April 2001.