Jim Bunning

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Detroit Tigers, 1955-1963; Philadelphia Phillies, 1964-1967, 1970-1971; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1968-1969; Los Angeles Dodgers, 1969

Jim Bunning was the consummate intelligent professional pitcher. A recent researcher ranked him fourth among 20th-century pitchers in consistency, in terms of how seldom he missed a start. At the time of his retirement, only Walter Johnson had registered more career strikeouts, and Bunning had accomplished his feat while allowing only 1,000 walks in a 17-year career, making him one of the best strikeout-control pitchers of all time.

Jim Bunning
While pitching for the Tigers in 1957, Jim Bunning led the AL in wins with 20.

Born in 1931 in Southgate, Kentucky, James Paul David Bunning earned a degree in economics from Xavier University and signed with the Detroit Tiger organization. After six years in the minors, he earned a late-season promotion in 1955, only to discover his fastball wasn't hot enough to beat big-league hitters. So he went to play in the Cuban Winter League and learned the slider, which became his most devastating pitch. He threw it with a sweeping sidearm delivery that caused his knuckles to nearly scrape the ground on his follow-through.

In 1957, he led the American League in wins, sporting a 20-8 record and tossing a no-hitter against the Red Sox. He won 17 games in 1959 and 19 in 1962 but was traded to Philadelphia before the 1964 season.

That year, Bunning was masterful. Along with his 19-8 record, he tossed a perfect game against the Mets on Father's Day that year, using only 90 pitches to spin the first regular-season perfecto in 42 years, and the first in the National League since 1880. (Appropriately, Bunning was dad to seven children.)

But it was a tough season for Bunning's Phils. They took a 10-game lead late into the season and then collapsed. Manager Gene Mauch, starved for starters, threw Bunning and Chris Short into the fray three times each on just two days rest. Although Bunning may have been overused down the stretch, the work didn't damage his arm. He repeated his 19-win seasons each of the next two years and toiled 290 innings or better each of the next three.

After being dealt to Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, Bunning returned to the Phils as a free agent in 1970 and won 15 games in each of his final two seasons. Bunning was the first pitcher since Cy Young to win 100 games in both leagues; he also matched Young by fanning 1,000 batters in each.

Bunning started more than 30 games in 11 consecutive seasons. He managed in the minors for five seasons and then moved into politics, first as a Kentucky state representative, and then with the U.S. Congress. He was elected to the Hall in 1996.

Here are Jim Bunning's major league totals:


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