On Friday, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning passed away. Bunning who pitched between the years 1955-1971 primarily for the Tigers and the Phillies, put together a 224-184 record and struck out 2,855 batters (17th all-time). A durable control pitcher, he was known for pitching a perfect game on Fathers’ Day 1964. While never leading his league in ERA, Bunning ranked second twice in 1960 and 1967 and landed in the top 10 seven times.
That control did not extend to hit batsmen, though. Four times (1964-1967) Bunning led his league in HBP. Whether those hit by pitches were intentional, I’ll let you decide after reading this from the New York Times:
“Larry Bowa, the Phillies’ longtime shortstop, once recalled a game that Mr. Bunning pitched at Montreal in the early 1970s when “the Expos had Ron Hunt, a guy who loved to get hit.”
“Well, Bunning threw him a sidearm curveball, Hunt never moved, and it hit him,” Bowa told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The ball rolled toward the mound, and Bunning picked it up. He looked right at Hunt and said: ‘Ron, you want to get hit? I’ll hit you next time.’ And next time up, bam. Fastball. Drilled him right in the ribs. And he said to Hunt, ‘O.K., now you can go to first base.’”
Jim Bunning took that gruff no-nonsense attitude and had some measure of success in politics as a representative and later a U.S. Senator for the state of Kentucky.
I’ve been seeing a lot of Jim Bunning in APBA lately. He’s part of my 1966 National League replay. That’s his card you see above. He’s graded as an AXZ and a fielding 2 pitcher. That fielding grade is not a coincidence. Aside from 1961 when he made six errors, he made only 17 for the other sixteen seasons.
In real life in 1966, Bunning was fourth in ERA (2.41), sixth in wins with a 19-14 record and second in strikeouts (252). Considering he was playing in a league with opponents like Koufax, Gibson and Marichal, he held his own. Bunning did lead the NL in games started (41), shutouts (5), and yes, HBP (19). Watch out Ron Hunt.
So far in my replay which is in early June, Bunning has been doing his part for the Phillies. He is 7-3 with a 2.30 ERA and has struck out 86 in 98 innings. On May 30th, he pitched a no-hitter in my replay against the hapless Mets.
Here’s an excellent Jim Bunning bio by Ralph Berger on SABR.org