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Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, who played for '55 Bisons, dies at 85

Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to become a United States congressman and senator from Kentucky, has died at age 85, the Philadelphia Phillies announced Saturday.

Bunning, who pitched for the Buffalo Bisons in 1955, is one of 20 former members of the Herd who are in Cooperstown. He was inducted in 1996 after a vote of the Veterans Committee. The team's release said Bunning suffered a stroke in October and died from complications.

A nine-time All-Star, Bunning pitched in the majors from 1955-71 with the Phillies and Detroit Tigers. He then served six terms as a Kentucky congressman from 1987-99 and two terms as a senator from the Bluegrass State from 1999-2011.

Bunning finished his career with a record of 224-184 with an ERA of 3.27 and 2,855 strikeouts. He started 519 games in his career and completed 151. He led his league in strikeouts three times (with a career-high 253 for the 1967 Phillies) and led the AL with 20 wins for the 1957 Tigers.

Bunning pitched a perfect game on Father's Day in 1964,  a 6-0 win over the Mets in the first game of  doubleheader in Shea Stadium. It was the first regular-season perfect game in baseball since 1922 -- and the first in the National League since Providence's John Montgomery Ward blanked the Bisons on June 17, 1880 (Yes, the Bisons were in the National League then).

Bunning's Buffalo career saw him listed on the Herd's roster as a 21-year-old in 1953, but he did not appear in a game. He pitched in 20 games for the Herd in '55, making 16 starts. He finished with an 8-5 record, fourth on the team in wins, and a 3.77 ERA. He was third on the club with 105 strikeouts.

“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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