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James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter

Also Known As: "Jimmy", "Catfish"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Perquimans, NC, United States
Death: September 09, 1999 (53)
Hertford, NC, United States
Place of Burial: Hertford, NC, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Abbott Shepard Hunter and Lillie Mae Hunter
Husband of Private
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Bessie Louise Hunter; Ray Hunter; Marjorie Lou Hunter; Private; Private and 3 others

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Catfish Hunter

Master hurler Catfish Hunter’s presence on the mound struck fear in his opponents. During his 15-year baseball career in the Major League, Hunter took part in eight All-Star Games, won 20 or more games five seasons in a row (1971-1975), and pitched in six World Series, coming away a winner five times. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

BIOGRAPHY

He was born James Augustus Hunter on April 8, 1946 in Hertford, North Carolina to Abbott and Lillie (née Harrell) Hunter. He was one of 10 children, though two died at birth. The family lived in a farmhouse without plumbing and stoked a pot-bellied stove for heat. Hunter's father was a tenant farmer who worked long days to support the family, never grumbling, never taking a day off. Through his example, Hunter learned the merits of an uncompromising work ethic.

Growing up with seven siblings provided Hunter with plenty of opportunities to practice baseball. Hunter claimed that he learned to pitch from his three older brothers, and developed his famous control by throwing baseballs through a hole in the barn door. He was known as "Jimmy" in his home-town, but was professionally called "Catfish," a nickname invented by Charlie Finley, the owner of the Kansas City, then Oakland, Athletics, for whom he pitched between 1965 to 1974.

Hunter began playing organized baseball in grammar school and became a local hero. Though he was quite young, townsfolk began bragging about his future. In his book Catfish: My Life in Baseball, Hunter explained that all this talk bothered his father. "Don't let what you do go to your head," his father warned him. "If you play good ball, people will certainly brag about it to your face. Just thank them. If you don't play good, they will certainly tell you." Hunter's father also reminded him that a pitcher couldn't win a game by himself. Those words stuck with Hunter, and during his entire career, he never took sole credit for a win.

At Perquiman High, Hunter became a hurling hero. In Catfish, the Three Million Dollar Pitcher, baseball scout Floyd "Dutch" Olafson described Hunter's high school days. "The first time I saw Jim pitch, I knew he'd make the major leagues. He throwed smoke then." Hunter came of age before there was a baseball draft, so he was eligible to sign with any team. Scouts flocked to Hertford to watch him play.

Hunter's future took a turn for the worse in November 1963, however, when his brother Pete accidentally blasted buckshot into Hunter's right foot—the foot he used to push off with when pitching. The accident left Hunter somewhat hobbled and jeopardized his prospects in the eyes of many professional scouts, but the Kansas City Athletics had faith in the young pitcher and signed Hunter to a contract. He was not able to pitch in 1964. He was sent to the Mayo Clinic, as surgeons worked on his right foot. Hunter recovered at Charles O. Finley’s farm in LaPorte, Indiana.

The investment that Finley and the Athletics made in Hunter was returned many times over. Hunter's first major league victory came on July 27, 1965 in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team eight times, the first two times (in 1966 and 1967) despite the less-than stellar performance of his team. He pitched a perfect game on May 8, 1968, after the A’s had moved to Oakland, against the Minnesota Twins. It was the first regular-season American League perfect game since 1922.

The A’s went on to win three straight World Series titles between 1972 and 1974, and Hunter distinguished himself as a leader on these championship teams. He won the Cy Young Award in 1974, compiling a record of twenty-five wins and twelve losses, with a league-leading 2.49 earned run average (e.r.a.). At the end of that season, Hunter discovered a clause in his contract that had not been honored by the A’s, and in arbitration, Hunter won free agency, a status that was essentially unheard of at the time. His availability started a bidding war between all but one of the twenty-four major league teams. He ultimately chose to sign with the New York Yankees, who offered him $3.35 million for five years, including a $1 million signing bonus, along with other annuities. It was the largest package in baseball history at the time, and its impact is still felt by players today.

In his first year with the Yankees, 1975, Hunter went on to lead the league, with twenty-three wins. Though his record was never quite as good in the following years, he played a valuable role in the Yankees World Series teams of 1977 and 1978. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner credited Hunter with teaching the team a winning spirit. When Hunter retired in 1979, at the age of thirty-three, he had compiled an impressive record of 224 wins and 166 losses, with a career e.r.a. of 3.26. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

After Hunter retired he returned to Hertford, N.C., and worked on his farm, where he pursued his life-long love for fishing and hunting. In 1998, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which claimed his life a year later. Hunter was married to his high-school sweetheart, Helen, and had three children, Todd, Kimberly, and Paul.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography, JRank

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Catfish Hunter's Timeline

1946
April 8, 1946
Perquimans, NC, United States
1999
September 9, 1999
Age 53
Hertford, NC, United States
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Hertford, NC, United States