Jim Hunter 1966 #036
by William Szczepanek
Jim "Catfish" Hunter pitched for the Athletics and the Yankees for 15 years between 1965 and 1979 5 of which were World Series Championship teams. Hunter received his nickname for Charles Finley, the Athletics owner based on a childhood story of a time when he was missing and later found with a good catch of catfish. This 1966 card is his first following his shared rookie card of 1965 and shows him as a clean shaven 19 year old. Hunter would later sport long, curly hair and a mustache that was a trademark of the Athletics at the time.
An 8-time All Star and Cy Young Award winner in 1974 when he went 25-12, Hunter never played in the minor leagues. His career was cut short at the age of 33 due to diabetes and arm problems associated with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He had 5 consecutive 20 game seasons and 224 career wins with a lifetime ERA of 2.26. In 1972 Hunter went 21-7 with an ERA of 2.04. Hunter was the mainstay of the Athletics staff in their glory years of the early 1970s with 4 wins and no losses in the World Series.
On May 8, 1968 against the Twins fans, "Catfish" Hunter pitched the first American League regular season perfect game in 46 years. He struck out 11 batters while contributing 3 hits and 3 RBIs. Hunter was a respectable hitter with a lifetime .326 batting average.
He became a free agent in 1974 after winning arbitration. After being courted by most teams he signed with the Yankees to become the highest paid player in baseball at the time (3.75 million) opening the door for future free agents, but he received nothing compared to what players get today. He proceeded to go 23-14 with the Yankees and came in second to Jim Palmer for the Cy Young Award.
"Catfish was a very unique guy. If you didn't know he was making that kind of money, you'd never guess it because he was humble, very reserved about being a star-type player." ─ Lou Piniella.
"Winning isn't the only thing, but wanting to is." ─ Jim Hunter
Humble and reserved Hunter was known for his control and for winning big games. Wish we had more players like him today.
Hunter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
You can check out Hunter's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.