Ex-Senate staffer: Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning has died

In addition to throwing no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues, he was also the second pitcher after Cy Young to win 100 games and pitch 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues, according to the Hall of Fame. The Republican senator was famously outspoken for his opposition to steroids in baseball, illegal immigration and an extension of unemployment benefits, among other issues, and drew criticism within his party for his ornery nature and controversial statements.

Bunning decided not to run for re-election in the 2010 race, instead endorsing tea party favorite and current U.S. Sen.

"This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a ideal game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky and a loving family", he added. Jim threw no-hitters in both leagues, pitched a ideal game on Father's Day in 1964 and, at his retirement, had more strikeouts than any pitcher in history except Walter Johnson.

During his storied pro career, Bunning, an imposing 6-foot 3-inch right-hander, developed a reputation as combative and unafraid to hit or brush back a batter who was crowding the plate.

Senate President Robert Stivers, whose wife Regina worked with Bunning for three years, praised him as "an exemplary Kentuckian". Bunning died Friday at age 85. In February 2010, he single-handedly held up a $10 billion spending bill in Congress because it would add to the deficit.

Bunning's son, Kentucky U.S. District Judge David Bunning, paid tribute to his father.

"He was bold and headstrong, but also fiercely loyal - a combination that made him effective in every endeavor he undertook", Rogers said. But it was his Father's Day flawless game against the New York Mets on June 21, 1964 that stands out to Phillies fans as a seminal moment in franchise history. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

After the end of his playing career in 1971, Bunning became a manager in the Phillies' minor league system for five years.

Bunning pitched in the major leagues for 17 seasons with the Phillies, Pirates, Tigers and Dodgers and was a nine time All-Star.

Facing questions about his behavior, Bunning ended his political career in 2009 when he announced that he would not seek a third Senate term the next year. "All players - past, present and future - will forever owe Jim a debt of gratitude".

In 1998, he was elected to the Senate, taking the seat of the retiring Democratic Senator Wendell Ford. He blamed Kentucky's senior US senator, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders for allegedly drying up his fundraising sources and pressuring him to retire.

  • Zachary Reyes