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Bunning's Father's Day perfect in 1964

Bunning's Father's Day perfect in 1964

It was only fitting that Jim Bunning, then a father of seven, would do something special when he took the mound at Shea Stadium on Father's Day, June 21, 1964.

The slender right-hander entered the record book by throwing a perfect game against the New York Mets on that Sunday afternoon. It was the first one in the National League since John Ward, pitching for Providence, blanked Buffalo, 5-0, on June 7, 1890.

Bunning struck out 10, including pinch-hitter John Stephenson, to end the masterpiece in the first game of a doubleheader. Of the 90 pitches he threw, only 21 were out of the strike zone. Pitches by the innings: 8, 11, 8, 12, 9, 7, 10, 12, 13.

The only potential hit was wiped out by a sensational diving stop by second baseman Tony Taylor, on a drive by Jesse Gonder in the fifth inning. Taylor knocked down the line drive, crawled after the ball, and got Gonder at first base.

Generally, when a pitcher is working on a no-hitter, it is a no-no for players to talk about it on the bench, especially the pitcher.

In his book, "Jim Bunning, Baseball and Beyond," written by Frank Dolson, Bunning and his teammates talked at length about his approach during the game. "The other guys thought I was crazy, but I didn't want anyone tightening up. Most of all, I didn't want to tighten up myself," said Bunning in the book.

Catcher Gus Triandos said, "He was really silly. He was jabbering like a magpie."

"It was the strangest thing," right fielder Johnny Callison said. "You don't talk when you have a no-hitter, right? But he was going up and down the bench and telling everybody what was going on. Everybody tried to get away from him, but he was so wired that he followed us around."

With two outs away from immortality, Bunning called Triandos to the mound. According to Triandos, "He calls me out and says I should tell him a joke or something, just to give him a breather. I couldn't think of any, I just laughed at him."

Up stepped George Altman as a pinch-hitter, someone Bunning figured would get to hit. With a 1-2 count, Bunning recorded his ninth strikeout. That brought up a second straight left-handed pinch-hitter, Stephenson, who had a .047 average.

"I knew if I got Stephenson up there with two out, I had it," recalled Bunning. "I knew I could get him out on curveballs, no matter what." Curveballs are all Stephenson saw. Swing and a miss, strike two looking, curveball outside, another one outside, then a swing and a miss to end the game. Twenty-seven down, none to go.

Bunning pounded his fist into his glove and his teammates flooded the field, while Mets fans stood and cheered. Mary Bunning and their oldest daughter, Barbara, had driven to New York for the game. Mary was ushered to the field to hug and kiss her husband. A postgame dinner was planned, but that didn't happen until they were riding on the New Jersey turnpike back to Philly late that night.

Bunning got a phone call, not from President Lyndon B. Johnson, but from Ed Sullivan, the host of a very popular TV show that aired live on Sunday nights out of New York. Bunning appeared on the show and received $1,000.

"We added a pool and bathhouse to our home in Kentucky," he said.

While previously pitching for the Detroit Tigers, he completed a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on July 20, 1958. The last batter he retired was future Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

Only one other pitcher had tossed a no-hitter in each league: the legendary Cy Young.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to
Read More: Philadelphia Phillies, Jim Bunning