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Catfish Hunter

Pitcher
Born: April 8, 1946(1946-04-08)
Hertford, North Carolina
Died: September 9, 1999 (aged 53)
Hertford, North Carolina
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
May 13, 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
September 17, 1979 for the New York Yankees
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     224-166
Earned run average     3.26
Strikeouts     2,012
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1987
Vote     76.27%

James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter (April 8, 1946 - September 9, 1999), was a Major League right-handed starting pitcher between 1965 and 1979. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

Contents

Hunting accident

The youngest son of eight children, he excelled in a variety of sports; enjoying success as a linebacker and offensive tackle in football as well as a shortstop, cleanup batter and pitcher in baseball. His pitching skill began to attract scouts from Major League Baseball teams to Hertford, North Carolina. In his senior year, Hunter was wounded in a hunting accident which led to the loss of one of his toes and the lodging of shotgun pellets in his foot.[1] The accident left Hunter somewhat hobbled and jeopardized his prospects in the eyes of many professional scouts, but the Kansas City Athletics had faith in the young pitcher and signed Hunter to a contract.[2]

Athletics

Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City A's, gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish".[1] The investment that Finley and the Athletics made in "Catfish" was returned many times over. Hunter's first major league victory came on July 27, 1965 in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. In 1966 and 1967, Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team. Following the 1967 season, Charles Finley moved the Athletics from Kansas City to Oakland, and on May 8, 1968, against the Minnesota Twins, Hunter pitched the first perfect game in the American League since 1922.[1]

He continued to win games, and in 1974 received both The Sporting News's "Pitcher of the Year" award and the American League Cy Young Award after going 25-12 with a league leading 2.49 earned run average. After a contract dispute with Finley in 1974,[1] Hunter left the Athletics in 1975 for the New York Yankees. Catfish's statistics while he was with the Athletics were impressive: four consecutive years with at least 20 wins, and four World Series wins without a loss.[2]

New York Yankees

Hunter (left) with manager Billy Martin and Brad Gulden during a 1979 game right after Thurman Munson's death.

Hunter became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. He got off to a rough start going 0-3 in his first four starts. He settled down after that, and was named to his seventh All-Star team. He led the league in wins (23) for the second year in a row, and also led the league in innings pitched (328) and complete games (30) to finish second to the Baltimore Orioles' Jim Palmer in the American League Cy Young balloting. Hunter also became only the fourth (and last) American League pitcher to win 20 games in a season for five consecutive seasons (1971-1975). The others were Walter Johnson (10), Lefty Grove (7), and Bob Feller (5). Palmer had two four year streaks (1970-1973 & 1975-1978) for eight in nine years.

In 1976, Hunter won 17 games, led the Yankees in complete games and innings pitched, and was again named to the All-Star team. The Yankees won three straight pennants with Hunter from 1976 to 1978. However, the years of arm strain and the effects of diabetes had begun to toll on the pitcher and in 1979, Hunter retired from baseball.

Hall of fame

OaklandRetired27.PNG
Catfish Hunter's number 27 was retired by the Oakland Athletics in 1990

Hunter was an effective pitcher, not because he overpowered batters with his speed, but because of the precision of his pitching. Along with Billy Williams, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.[2] At the time a player was allowed to choose which team's cap would be memorialized on his Hall of Fame Plaque. Before and after his induction, Hunter spoke highly of his experiences with both the Athletics and Yankees and his appreciation for both team owners, Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner. For this reason, he refused to choose a team and thus the plaque depicts him with no insignia on the cap.

Death

Hunter died at his home in Hertford, North Carolina in 1999 after he took a fall down the stairs at his home. He had been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the time.[1]

An annual softball event is held in Hertford in memory of Hunter every year. All proceeds from the weekend benefit ALS research. The tournament has raised over $100,000 since 1999.

Career statistics

Hunter was at his best against the game's best. He held All-Stars Tommie Agee, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Chris Chambliss, Doug DeCinces, Dwight Evans, George Hendrick, Frank Howard and Bobby Richardson to a .129 collective batting average (40-for-310), and held Hall of famers Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski and Yankee teammate Thurman Munson to a .211 collective batting average (107-for-506)

W L PCT ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H ER R HR BB K WP HBP
224 166 .574 3.26 500 476 181 42 0 3449 2958 1248 1380 374 954 2012 49 49

Career accomplishments

Preceded by
Sandy Koufax (September 9, 1965)
Perfect game pitcher
May 8, 1968
Succeeded by
Len Barker (May 15, 1981)
Preceded by
Jim Palmer
American League ERA Champion
1974
Succeeded by
Jim Palmer
Preceded by
Wilbur Wood
American League Wins Champion
1974-1975
(1974 tied with Ferguson Jenkins, 1975 tied with Jim Palmer)
Succeeded by
Jim Palmer
Preceded by
Jim Palmer
American League Cy Young Award
1974
Succeeded by
Jim Palmer

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Coffey, Michael (2004). 27 Men Out: Baseball's Perfect Games. New York: Atria Books. pp. 118–138. ISBN 0743446062. 
  2. ^ a b c "Jim "Catfish" Hunter". State Library of North Carolina. http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/bio/sports/catfish.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
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