Catfish Hunter

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Kansas City Athletics, 1965-1967; Oakland Athletics, 1968-1974; New York Yankees, 1975-1979

Catfish Hunter
Between 1971 and 1975, Catfish Hunter
won 111 games -- almost half of his
224 career total.

Jim Hunter served his apprenticeship in the majors, never pitching in the minors. He evolved from an 8-8 pitcher as a 19-year-old in Kansas City to a Cy Young Award winner and the richest player in baseball. He was also part of two of the most successful and colorful teams of the 1970s.

James Augustus Hunter (1946-1999) was born in Hertford, North Carolina, and he earned celebrity as a schoolboy hurler, getting a 26-2 record with five no-hitters. A hunting accident cost him his right little toe as an 18-year-old, but Kansas City owner Charlie O. Finley signed Hunter for $75,000. Finley dubbed Jim "Catfish" in order to inject color into his image.

On the injured list in '64, Catfish didn't become a regular starter for Kansas City until 1965. He was named to the All-Star Team for the first of eight times in 1966 and showed signs of things to come when he tossed a perfect game against the Twins in early 1968.

A lifetime 30-36 when the team moved to Oakland in 1968, Catfish won 18 games in 1970, and then 21 in 1971, the first of five straight seasons in which he passed the 20-win mark. The A's grew to a powerhouse in the early 1970s, winning the World Series in 1972, 1973, and 1974. Catfish relied on a good fastball, guile, and pinpoint control. He won 21, 21, and 25 games those three years; he lost a combined total of 24. He was 4-0 in the three World Series.

Hunter's 1974 season earned him Cy Young honors, as he posted a 25-12 record and a league-leading 2.49 ERA. When Finley failed to pay Hunter's insurance premium, as spelled out in his contract, Catfish also earned the right of free agency. Hunter was the first celebrated free agent of the era, commanding $3.75 million from George Steinbrenner for a five-year stint with the Yankees.

Catfish was 23-14 in his first year in pinstripes in 1975, and he led the league with 30 complete games and 328 innings. The "Bronx Zoo" began to win, but Hunter began to develop arm trouble. The Yankees won pennants in 1976, 1977, and 1978, but Hunter was just 38-30.

Although the Yankees won the Series in 1977, Catfish was rocked in just 41/3 innings of work. The Yanks repeated in 1978, and Hunter won the final game of the Series. After a 2-9 season in 1979, he retired at age 33. He then spent most of his time on his farm in North Carolina.

With a lifetime record of 224-166 and a 3.26 ERA, Catfish fanned at least 100 batters in 11 consecutive seasons -- finishing with 2,012 -- but never walked more than 85. He ranks in the top ten in five World Series categories. Hunter was inducted in 1987. He died at age 53 of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Here are Catfish Hunter's major league totals:


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