Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 24 years in Congress, dies at 85

Jim Bunning, the pitcher-turned-legislator who had a pair of high-profile careers on the national stage, has died at age 85.

Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 24 years in Congress, dies at 85

Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher who spent 24 years in Congress, dies at 85

Bunning's son, David, tweeted Saturday morning that "Heaven got its No 1 starter today." The Baseball Hall of Famer had suffered a stroke last October.

Bunning grew up in the Cincinnati area and signed with the Detroit Tigers out of Xavier University, eventually reaching the major leagues in 1955. The sidearming right-hander led the American League with 20 wins and 267 1/3 innings in 1957, his first full season in the big leagues, and threw his first no-hitter the following year.

He made seven All-Star teams with the Tigers before being traded to the Phillies following the 1963 season. He crafted a perfect game Father's Day in 1964, the first perfect game for a National League pitcher in 84 years.

After brief stints with the Pirates and Dodgers, Bunning returned to Philadelphia to finish out his career in 1970-71.

By the time Bunning was voted into the Hall of Fame by the veterans' committee in 1996, he already had served 10 years in the House of Representatives. He won a Senate seat in 1998 and represented Kentucky for 12 years before deciding not to seek reelection in 2010.

Bunning and his wife Mary Catherine had nine children and continued to live in Southgate, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, after returning from Washington.

"Jim Bunning led an extraordinary life in the National Pastime and in public service," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was a consistent winner and workhorse pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies. Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a perfect game on Father’s Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

"In his baseball career, Jim was proud of always taking the ball. The work ethic that made him a Hall of Famer led him to the House of Representatives and the United Stated Senate. He served the state of Kentucky for more than two decades and became the only Hall of Famer ever to serve in Congress.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Senator Bunning’s family, friends, constituents and the many fans who admired his career in our game."

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