Jim Bunning Essentials
Bats: R Throws: R
Born: October 23, 1931 in Southgate, KY USA
Died: 5 26 2017 in Edgewood, KY USA
Last Game: 9/3/1971
Hall of Fame: Inducted as a Player in 1996 by Veterans
Full Name: James Paul David Bunning
A consistent but unspectacular performer, Jim Bunning won 100 games in both the American and National Leagues and retired second to Walter Johnson in strikeouts with 2,885. Though he never tasted the post-season, he did throw a perfect game in 1964 for the Phillies and a No Hitter in 1958 for the Detroit Tigers. He was one of the most prominent players in the development of the Players Association, and after his career he entered politics, ultimately earning a U.S. Senate seat.
The 6’3″ righthander’s unusual pitching style, a sweeping sidearm delivery that finished with his glove hand touching the ground well in front of the mound, made him especially difficult for righthanded batters.
Bunning was 20-8 for the Tigers in 1957 but never again won 20. He had 19 victories for Detroit in 1962; then, after being traded to the Phillies in 1964, he won 19 in each of his first three years in Philadelphia. In 1967, when he won 17, he set a ML record with five 1-0 losses.
Bunning had a 118-87 record with the Tigers in the AL, and was 106-97 in the National League with three teams. He led both circuits in innings pitched and strikeouts.
After retiring as a player, Bunning managed in the minors for five years, then entered Kentucky politics. He was elected to the state legislature and ran unsuccessfully for governor. In 1986, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from a heavily Democratic district.
Education and family
Bunning was born in Southgate, Kentucky, the son of Gladys (née Best) and Louis Aloysius Bunning. He graduated from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati in 1949 and later received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Xavier University.
In 1952, Bunning married Mary Catherine Theis. They had five daughters and four sons. One of Bunning’s sons, David L. Bunning, is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Major League Baseball career
Bunning’s first game as a major league pitcher was on July 20, 1955, with the Detroit Tigers, after having toiled in the minor leagues 1950–1954 and part of the 1955 season, when the Tigers club described him as having “an excellent curve ball, a confusing delivery and a sneaky fast ball”. Bunning pitched for the Detroit Tigers (1955–63). He then went to the Philadelphia Phillies (1964–67), the Pittsburgh Pirates (1968 to mid-1969), and finished the 1969 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bunning then returned to the Phillies in 1970 and retired in 1971. He wore uniform number 15 on the 1955 Tigers, and then switched to 14 in 1956 for the rest of his time with Detroit. He stayed with number 14 on his jersey with the Phillies and Pirates. When he was traded to the Dodgers in 1969 he wore number 17. The Phillies retired his number 14 jersey in 2001 after his election to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Bunning is remembered for his role in the pennant race of 1964, in which the Phillies held a commanding lead in the National League for most of the season, eventually losing the title to the St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Gene Mauch used Bunning and fellow hurler Chris Short heavily down the stretch, and the two became visibly fatigued as September wore on. The collapse of the 1964 Phillies remains one of the most infamous in baseball history. With a six and a half game lead as late as September 21, they lost 10 games in a row to finish tied for second place.
Bunning would routinely shake off catchers’ pitch signs that he knew to be signaled into the game from the dugout by Mauch. This would have the effect of irritating Mauch, who broadly applied the practice of signaling pitches from the dugout to his catchers at a time when this was not typically done.
Bunning pitched his first no-hitter on July 20, 1958, for the Detroit Tigers against the Boston Red Sox. His second, for the Philadelphia Phillies, was a perfect game, which came against the New York Mets on June 21, 1964, Father’s Day. Bunning’s perfect game was the first in the National League in 84 years. He is one of only seven pitchers to throw both a perfect game and an additional no-hitter, the others being Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Addie Joss, Cy Young, Mark Buehrle, and Roy Halladay. He is also one of only five players to throw a no-hitter in both leagues, the others being Young, Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Hideo Nomo. He played in the All-Star Games in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1966. He is also tenth on the list of pitchers who have hit batsmen during their career.
Jim Bunning’s number 14 was retired by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001.
On August 2, 1959, Bunning struck out three batters on nine pitches in the ninth inning of a 5–4 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Bunning became the fifth American League pitcher and the 10th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-pitch/three-strikeout half-inning. Bunning’s 2,855 career strikeouts put him in second place on the all-time list at the time of his retirement, behind only Walter Johnson. His mark was later surpassed by a number of other pitchers, and he is currently 17th all-time.
Jim Bunning is the only pitcher to have struck out Ted Williams 3 times in a single game. Williams wrote in his autobiography, My Turn at Bat, that he was so mad that after the game that he ripped off his uniform, buttons and all, and looked for a schedule to see when he would face the Tigers again, saying “I’ll get you Bunning.” On May 23, 1957, the next time the two met, the Splendid Splinter got his revenge, hitting two solo home runs off Bunning, although Bunning still got the win, 5-3.
Best Season: 1964
In his first season with the Phillies, Bunning established himself as the team ace, winning 19 games against 8 defeats, throwing 5 shutouts. He completed 13 games, including a perfect game no-hitter over the Mets. He struck out 219 and walked just 43 batters.
Helping yourself to a 1-0 Victory
The pitchers listed below are the only pitchers to win a 1-0 game and also drive in the only run with a home run. 8/3/1906, Tom Hughes, Senators, off Fred Glade, Browns (10th inning) 8/13/1932, Red Ruffing, Yankees, off Tommy Thomas, Senators (10th inning) 5/21/1938, Spud Chandler, Yankees, off Thornton Lee, White Sox 5/1/1959, Early Wynn, White Sox, off Tom Brewer, Red Sox 4/18/1962, Milt Pappas, Orioles, off Bill Stafford, Yankees 8/6/1962, Johnny Klippstein, Reds, off Don McMahon, Colt-45s (13th inning) 5/5/1965, Jim Bunning , Phillies, off Warren Spahn, Mets 9/16/1971, Juan Pizarro, Cubs, off Tom Seaver, Mets 6/17/1983, Bob Welch, Dodgers, off Mario Soto, Reds 8/28/2002, Odalis Perez, Dodgers, off Rick Helling, Diamondbacks
In 1996 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee.