He pitched a perfect game for the Phillies on June 21, 1964, against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The Phillies plan to honor the accomplishment Sunday on Father's Day at Citizens Bank Park.
"It meant so much because my oldest daughter and my wife came up for the game," Bunning said Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. "And they never would have come up if it wasn't Father's Day."
Bunning, 82, said he figured that afternoon might be a good one when he hung a couple sliders to Mets leadoff hitter Jim Hickman, but he only fouled them back. He remembered the biggest defensive play of the game when Jesse Gonder smashed a ball to Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor with one out in the fifth inning. Taylor knocked down the ball, which rolled a few feet away from him. But Taylor quickly picked up the ball and threw from his knees to first base to get Gonder.
"It was the only straight changeup I threw in the whole game," Bunning said. "The only one. And Tony made that spectacular play. And I thought, this has got the makings of something special."
Bunning said he talked throughout the perfect game, typically taboo during a run at perfection. But Bunning dismissed the superstition after he kept quiet during a failed no-hit bid weeks earlier. Catcher Gus Triandos once said Bunning was "jabbering like a magpie" during the game. Bunning even asked Triandos to tell him a joke when he visited him on the mound in the ninth inning.
"I know it relaxed me and I hoped it relaxed the whole team," Bunning said.
Bunning appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show later that night and celebrated at a Howard Johnson's off the New Jersey Turnpike because the once famous Toots Shor Restaurant had closed.
"[Former pro golfer] Ken Venturi had won the U.S. Open at Congressional, and I met Kenny backstage [at the Ed Sullivan Show], and he said some nasty words to me -- kiddingly -- that I had knocked him off the front page of the New York papers," Bunning said. "He said, 'I almost died winning that thing.' They had to intravenously give him fluids when they played 36 holes on the final day."