May 27 (UPI) — Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher-turned-conservative-politician, who represented Kentucky for two terms in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday, his son said. He was 85.
Bunning’s son, David, a federal judge, tweeted “Heaven got its No 1 starter today.” The family did not disclose the cause of death.
Bunning’s baseball career spanned 17 seasons, and he is the only player in Major League Baseball history to compile 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National leagues. He also was the first NL pitcher to record a perfect game in the modern era and recorded no-hitters in both leagues.
After retiring from baseball in 1971, Bunning narrowly missed out election to Cooperstown over the 20 years he was eligible to be on the ballot. In 1996, the Baseball Writers’ Association veterans committee voted him into the Hall of Fame.
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.
He took that no-nonsense style with him into politics.
Upon his retirement, Bunning returned to his native Kentucky, trading the pitching mound for the bully pulpit. Bunning, a conservative Republican, served on the local city council and in the Kentucky state Senate before he launched a failed campaign for governor in 1983. In 1986, he ran for Congress, easily winning a seat he would eventually hold for 12 years. Bunning won a tight race for the U.S. Senate in 1998. He was subsequently elected to a second term in 2004 in another tightly contested race. In 2010, amid sagging approval ratings and lackluster fundraising, Bunning announced he was retiring and would not seek re-election.
During his time as a legislator, Bunning was noted for his staunch anti-abortion position. A Roman Catholic with nine children, Bunning was among the strongest abortion opponents on Capitol Hill.
“My training, from the very first day that I was trained as a kid, was that anything like that was wrong,” Bunning once told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Not only legally wrong, but morally wrong.”