Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | May 31, 2017

Jim Bunning — Pitcher & Patriot

(3 Minute Read)

1961 Topps Baseball Card

Despite being a Yankees fan for as long as I can remember, I was still saddened to learn that Jim Bunning died last Friday night, May 26, at age 85.

I remember him being a tough pitcher for the Detroit Tigers against the Yankees in my youth. He spent most of his 17-year Hall of Fame career (1955-1971) pitching for the Tigers (9 years) and Phillies (6 years) with only short stints with the Pirates and Dodgers. Bunning posted a lifetime 224-184 record and 3.27 ERA. After baseball Bunning served Kentucky and the nation in both the US House and Senate, standing strong for high moral values.

“Heaven got its No. 1 starter.” Federal District Court judge David Bunning tweeted this to announce his father’s death Saturday morning. His death was due to complications from a stroke he suffered last October.

Hall of Famer James Paul David Bunning (1931-2017) was a 7-time All-Star with the Tigers and a 2-time All-Star with the Phillies. He was the second pitcher in history (with Cy Young) to win 100 games and strikeout 1000 batters in both the American and National Leagues. He is one of only five pitchers to throw a no-hitter in both leagues (for Detroit and Philadelphia). At the time he did it, only he and Cy Young had accomplished the feat. Upon retirement, he was second on the all-time strikeouts list to Walter Johnson with 2,855.

Bunning was proud of his reliability and consistency. He said, “I am most proud of the fact I went through nearly 11 years without missing a start. They wrote my name down, and I went to the post.” This may be a record in itself. Certainly very few pitchers ever reached this level of dependability.

Allen Lewis, a 1981 Ford C. Frick Award honoree, covered Bunning for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He emphasized Bunning’s purposefulness: “He’s the only pitcher I ever saw who never threw a pitch that he didn’t know exactly what he was trying to do with it. He had purpose with every pitch.”

Fellow Phillies pitcher Dennis Bennett said of Bunning, “He’s the leader of the staff. When he loses, we are shocked.”

Jim Bunning
2009 Senatorial photo


Following his sterling pitching career, Bunning went on to be a good Congressman from Kentucky, serving 12 years as a Representative and 12 years as a Senator. Jim Bunning served America nobly as a staunchly conservative voice in both houses, speaking out against spending and taxes and opposing obamacare. The Christian Coalition gave him a 100% rating on Christian family values.

Bunning was particularly strict regarding abortion. He always voted pro-life, consistently voting to limit abortion whenever possible. He scorned colleagues who succumbed to pressure and weakened their position on the issue.

Regarding abortion Bunning said, “My training, from the very first day that I was trained as a kid, was that anything like that was wrong. Not only legally wrong, but morally wrong.”

Admirers called Bunning principled. Critics called him rigid. But rigid is good if your position is right. Rigidity is only a problem if your position is wrong.

In his retirement speech from the Senate in December 2010, Bunning defended his values and uncompromising ways. Speaking from the desk once occupied by Kentucky’s great orator and master of the Senate, Henry Clay, Bunning said,
“I have been booed by 60,000 fans at Yankee Stadium standing alone at the pitcher’s mound, so I have never really cared if I stood alone here in Congress, as long as I stood by my beliefs and my values. I have also thought that being able to throw a curve ball never was a bad skill for a politician to have.”

Baseball Hall of Fame Plaque

Perfect Father’s Day 1964

Bunning and his wife Mary Catherine had nine children, five daughters and four sons. On Father’s Day 1964, Bunning’s wife Mary and their oldest daughter Barbara came to New York to watch the Phillies play the Mets. Jim was to pitch the first game of a double-header.

By the fifth inning, Bunning had a perfect game going. But after one out, the Mets’ big catcher Jesse Gonder hit a screaming line drive between first and second that looked like a sure hit. Somehow 2nd-baseman Tony Taylor knocked the ball down, crawled after it, and threw from his knees to nail Gonder for the out.

Later Bunning commented that this was the biggest defensive play of the game. He said of his pitch that Gonder smacked, “It was the only straight change-up I threw in the whole game. The only one. And Tony made that spectacular play. And I thought, this has got the makings of something special.”

In the top of the sixth inning, Bunning himself helped break the game open with a 2-run bases-clearing double to give the Phillies a 6-0 lead.

In the ninth inning even the Mets fans began cheering for Bunning, because this was potentially a historic occasion. No National League pitcher had thrown a perfect game since 1880. However, Casey Stengel, manager of the Mets, sent in two pinch hitters in the bottom of the ninth for the last two outs in an attempt to break up Bunning’s no-hitter and perfect game.

As the first pinch hitter, George Altman, strode to the plate, Bunning motioned for his catcher Gus Triandos. Thinking Bunning wanted to discuss pitching strategy, Triandos was stunned when Bunning asked Triandos to tell a joke. Later Bunning said, “I know it relaxed me, and I hoped it relaxed the whole team.” Tension heightened when Altman smashed a long fly to right that eventually hooked foul for strike one. He fouled the next pitch behind home plate for strike two. Bunning threw the third strike past the swinging Altman for out two.

Now everyone was standing, wild with excitement. One out left to get a perfect game. Stengel sent pinch hitter John Stephenson to the plate in a last attempt to stop Bunning. Bunning remembered Stephenson had trouble with curve balls, so he started with two curve balls. Stephenson swung and missed the first and watched the second cut the corner for a called strike two. Now after two curve balls, what would you throw? A fastball? Bunning threw another curve, and Stephenson swung and missed. Strike three. Game over.

A perfect game! No hits, no runners, 27 straight outs. 90 pitches and 10 strikeouts. Six strikeouts in the last three innings. Only four balls reached the outfield. Bunning had a three-ball count on only two batters. 6-0 Phillies over Mets.

No Jinx for Jim

An unusual aspect of this game was how Bunning defied superstition throughout the game. Baseball players are generally very superstitious. In particular they strongly feel that no one should talk about a no-hitter in progress for fear that such talk will “jinx” the event.

However, during the game Bunning kept talking to his teammates, urging them to “dive, do something to get this perfect game.” Catcher Gus Triandos said Bunning was “jabbering like a magpie” throughout the game. Bunning said, “I talked all the time that day. I was trying to relax my teammates.”

Several weeks earlier Bunning had almost pitched a no-hitter and observed the superstition by sitting mute by himself at the end of the dugout. Since the superstition didn’t work, he dismissed it. He decided that keeping quiet didn’t work.

Bunning made rational a observation, drew a logical conclusion, and acted on it. This reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s instruction:
“…Think so as to have sound judgment…” (Romans 12:3)

Bunning did not allow notions of “luck” to rule his life. See No Luck At All.

Questions to Ponder

1. Are you bold enough to consider a striking career shift to impact your neighborhood or country for righteousness?
2. What do you say when everyone around you is jittery about a jinx?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday May 31, 2017 A.D.

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

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