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Catfish Hunter

A photo of Catfish Hunter.

James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter (April 8, 1946September 9, 1999), was a Major League Baseball right-handed starting pitcher between 1965 and 1979. He is one of only 20 people who have pitched a perfect game in an official Major League Baseball game, and 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 end 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.[1]

Charles O. Finley, the Kansas City owner, gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish". 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 Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team and was named again in 1967. In 1968 Charles Finley moved the Athletics from Kansas City to Oakland and on May 8 that year in a game against the Minnesota Twins, Hunter pitched the first perfect game in the American League since 1922. He continued to win games and in 1974 both received the Cy Young Award and was named Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. After a contract dispute with Finley in 1974, 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, four World Series wins with no losses and a 1974 league leading earned run average of 2.49.[1]

File:Catfish Hunter.jpg

Hunter in the early 1990s at an autograph signing event

Hunter was the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. That year he again won more than 20 games and was named to the All-Star team for the seventh time. Hunter would be named to the All-Star team again in 1976. 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. Hunter was an effective pitcher, not because he overpowered batters with his speed, but because of the precision of his pitching. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.[1] At the time a player was allowed to choose which 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 without an insignia on the cap.


Hunter died at a hospital 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 (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) at the time.

Career statistics[]


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

224 166 .574 3.26 500 476 181 42 0 3449 2958 1248 1380 374 954 2012 49 49

Notable achievements[]

  • 8-time AL All-Star (1966, 1967, 1970 & 1972-1976)
  • Perfect Game (May 8, 1968)
  • AL Cy Young Award Winner (1974)
  • AL ERA Leader (1974)
  • 2-time AL Wins Leader (1974 & 1975)
  • AL Innings Pitched Leader (1975)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (1975)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 7 (1970-1976)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 5 (1971-1975)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1974)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1967-1976)
  • 300 innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1974 & 1975)
  • Member of five World Series Championship teams: Oakland Athletics (1972, 1973 & 1974) and New York Yankees (1977 & 1978)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1987 (elected with Billy Williams)


  • "The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time."
  • "My brothers taught me to throw strikes, and thanks to that I gave up 379 home runs in the big leagues."
  • (About teammate Reggie Jackson): "He'd give you the shirt off his back. Then he'd call a press conference to announce it." (and about the Reggie candy bar) "You open it up and it tells you how good it is."


In 1975, he was the subject of the Bob Dylan song, "Catfish.", that was not well received. 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. Also in 1976 he was the subject of the Bobby Hollowell song "The Catfish Kid (Ballad of Jim Hunter)," that was performed by Big Tom White, released on a 45 RPM single. Growing up together, Hollowel was best friends with the young Jim Hunter.

Portrayed by minor league pitcher Jason Kosow in the ESPN miniseries The Bronx is Burning which depicts the 1977 New York Yankees.

Referred to In the 1976 motion picture The Bad New Bears; Buttermaker: "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?", Amanda: "Who's he?"

There is an annual softball event held in memory of Hunter every year in his hometown of Hertford, NC. All proceeds from the weekend benefit ALS research. The tournament has raised over $100,000 since 1999. The tournament can be reached at



Catfish Hunter was only the 4th (and last) American League pitcher to win 20 games in a season for 5 consecutive seasons (1971-1975). The others were Walter Johnson (10), Lefty Grove (7), and Bob Feller (5). Jim Palmer had 2 consecutive 4-year streaks (1970-1973) and (1975-1978) for 8 in 9 years. Catfish Hunter was also the name given to the enormous catfish living in the local lake in the 1995 film "Grumpier Old Men."

See also[]

External links[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jim "Catfish" Hunter. State Library of North Carolina. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
Preceded by:
Sandy Koufax
Perfect game pitcher
May 8, 1968
Succeeded by:
Len Barker
Preceded by:
Jim Palmer
American League ERA Champion
Succeeded by:
Jim Palmer
Preceded by:
Wilbur Wood
American League Wins Champion
(1974 tied with Ferguson Jenkins, 1975 tied with Jim Palmer)
Succeeded by:
Jim Palmer
Preceded by:
Jim Palmer
American League Cy Young Award
Succeeded by:
Jim Palmer

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