|Born: April 8, 1946|
Hertford, North Carolina
|Died: September 9, 1999 (aged 53)|
Hertford, North Carolina
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right |
|May 13, 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 17, 1979 for the New York Yankees|
|Win–loss record || 224–166|
|Earned run average || 3.26|
|Strikeouts || 2,012|
|Career highlights and awards|
- 8× All-Star (1966, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976)
- 5× World Series champion (1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978)
- 1974 AL Cy Young Award
- Pitched a perfect game on May 8, 1968
- Oakland Athletics #27 retired
|Member of the National|
| Baseball Hall of Fame |
|Induction || 1987|
|Vote || 76.27%|
James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter (April 8, 1946 – September 9, 1999), was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. During a 15-year baseball career, he pitched from 1965 to 1979 for both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.
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. 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. He was not able to pitch in 1964. He was sent to the Mayo Clinic, as surgeons worked on his right foot. Hunter recovered at Charles O. Finley’s farm in LaPorte, Indiana.
Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City A's, gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish" in 1965 for no reason other than that he thought his new pitcher needed a flashy nickname. The investment that Finley and the Athletics made in Hunter 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 ninth perfect game in baseball history, the first in the American League since Charlie Robertson's in 1922, as well as the first no-hitter for the franchise since Bill McCahan's in 1947 with what were then the Philadelphia Athletics.
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, Hunter left the Athletics in 1975 for the New York Yankees. Hunter'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.
New York Yankees
Hunter became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. Hunter refused higher offers from the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals to sign with the New York Yankees. 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
Hunter was an effective pitcher, not because he overpowered batters with his speed, but because of the precision of his pitching. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson and Catfish Hunter are the only Major League pitchers to win 200 games by the time they were 31 years old. Along with Billy Williams, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. 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.
Hunter died at his home in Hertford, North Carolina, in 1999 after he fell down the stairs at home. He had been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease", at the time.
An annual softball event is held in Hertford in memory of Hunter. All proceeds from the weekend benefit ALS research. The tournament has raised over $200,000 since 1999.
Honors and awards
- In 1975, he was the subject of the Bob Dylan song, "Catfish." It was unreleased by Dylan until his 1991 box set titled The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3; however, Joe Cocker recorded the song and included it on his 1976 album "Stingray," and Kinky Friedman released a live version on his "Lasso from El Paso" album. In 1976, Hunter was also the subject of the Bobby Hollowell song "The Catfish Kid (Ballad of Jim Hunter)," which was performed by Big Tom White and released on a 45 RPM single. Hollowell was best friends with the young Jim Hunter while they grew up together.
- He is mentioned in the 1976 film, The Bad News Bears when Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is trying to get Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal) to pitch for his Little League team. Amanda makes a number of outlandish demands (such as imported jeans, modeling school, ballet lessons, etc.) as conditions for joining the team. Upon hearing her demands, Buttermaker asks, "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?", reflecting Hunter's status as baseball's highest-paid pitcher. Amanda responds by asking, "Who's she?"
- Minor-league pitcher Jason Kosow portrayed Hunter in the ESPN miniseries The Bronx is Burning, which depicted the 1977 New York Yankees.
- The enormous and highly-prized catfish in Grumpier Old Men is named "Catfish Hunter" by the locals.
- In "You, Me and Dupree", Catfish Hunter is mentioned by Owen Wilson's character, Dupree, convincing an Asian orchestra student that he can pitch: "First, call me Dupree 'cause I'm your teammate. Second, so what if you're in the orchestra? So was Catfish Hunter."
- ^ a b c d e f Coffey, Michael (2004). 27 Men Out: Baseball's Perfect Games. New York: Atria Books. pp. 118–138. ISBN 0-7434-4606-2.
- ^ 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.
- ^ Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p.81, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
- ^ Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p.217, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
- ^ Catfish Hunter Award (2004–present). Baseball-Almanac. Retrieved 2011-08-19.