Monday, May 29, 2017

RIP, Jim Bunning

Jim Bunning at the 2016 Hall of Fame
induction ceremony.
We had a little news judgment debate Saturday at the Free Press: Whose death was more significant, Jim Bunning's or Gregg Allman? The majority thought Allman; I decided that the Hall of Fame and 24 years in Congress outweighed "Whipping Post" and a comically short tabloid marriage. I got both obits in, but I played Bunning's higher.

Not that I ever wholeheartedly embraced Bunning's HOF status. His record, in my view, is good but not outstanding: 224-184, 3.27. Not that it's a binary choice, but I'd go with Luis Tiant (229-172, 3.30) over Bunning. Bill James had a more favorable view of Bunning's record in some of his books, however.

Bunning did have a perfect game (1964, against the Mets; one is tempted to put an asterisk by it because it was the Mets, but even the Mets didn't get no-hit daily), and he did play a key role in one of the most storied collapses in pennant race history (pitching, and failing, repeatedly on short rest down the stretch as the Phillies blew a 6.5 game lead in the final 10 days in 1964), and he did play a key role in the hiring of Marvin Miller to head the players union.

The Hall of Fame's on-line bio of Bunning lists his primary team as Detroit, and he did play more for the Tigers than anybody else, but his plaque depicts him in a Phillies cap, which is more correct. There are four HOF pitchers with significant ties to the Phillies (none spent their entire careers there): Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and Bunning. Bunning is clearly the least of them, which is not an insult.

In Congress -- 12 years in the House, 12 in the Senate -- well, I follow politics fairly closely, and I can't remember any particular issue on which Bunning was a key figure. Time in 2009 named him one of the five worst senators, which isn't necessarily conclusive but something most officeholders would prefer to avoid.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure why the Phillies is more correct? He was pretty good for the Tigers.