|Born: April 8, 1946|
Hertford, North Carolina
|Died: September 9, 1999 (aged 53)|
Hertford, North Carolina
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|May 13, 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 17, 1979 for the New York Yankees|
|Earned run average||3.26|
James Augustus "Catfish" Hunter (April 8, 1946 - September 9, 1999), was a Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. During a 15-year baseball career, he pitched from 1965-1979 for both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.
The youngest son of eight children, he excelled in a variety of sports; enjoying success as a linebacker and offensive tackle in football as well as a shortstop, cleanup batter and pitcher in baseball. His pitching skill began to attract scouts from Major League Baseball teams to Hertford, North Carolina. In his senior year, Hunter was wounded in a hunting accident which led to the loss of one of his toes and the lodging of shotgun pellets in his foot. 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.
Charles O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City A's, gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish" in 1965 for no reason other than that he thought his new pitcher needed a flashy nickname. 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. In [[ in baseball|]] and [[ in baseball|]], Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team. Following the 1967 season, Charles Finley moved the Athletics from Kansas City to Oakland, and on May 8, [[ in baseball|]], against the Minnesota Twins, Hunter pitched the ninth perfect game in baseball history, the first in the American League since [[ in baseball|]].
He continued to win games, and in [[ in baseball|]] received both The Sporting Newss "Pitcher of the Year" award and the American League Cy Young Award after going 25-12 with a league leading 2.49 earned run average. After a contract dispute with Finley in 1974, Hunter left the Athletics in [[ in baseball|]] for the New York Yankees. Hunter's statistics while he was with the Athletics were impressive: four consecutive years with at least 20 wins, and four World Series wins without a loss.
Hunter became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. He got off to a rough start going 0-3 in his first four starts. He settled down after that, and was named to his seventh All-Star team. He led the league in wins (23) for the second year in a row, and also led the league in innings pitched (328) and complete games (30) to finish second to the Baltimore Orioles' Jim Palmer in the American League Cy Young balloting. Hunter also became only the fourth (and last) American League pitcher to win 20 games in a season for five consecutive seasons (1971–1975). The others were Walter Johnson (10), Lefty Grove (7), and Bob Feller (5). Palmer had two four year streaks (1970-1973 & 1975-1978) for eight in nine years.
In [[ in baseball|]], Hunter won 17 games, led the Yankees in complete games and innings pitched, and was again named to the All-Star team. The Yankees won three straight pennants with Hunter from 1976 to [[ in baseball|]]. However, the years of arm strain and the effects of diabetes had begun to toll on the pitcher and in [[ in baseball|]], Hunter retired from baseball.
Hunter was an effective pitcher, not because he overpowered batters with his speed, but because of the precision of his pitching. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson and Catfish Hunter are the only Major League pitchers to win 200 games by the time they were 31 years old. Along with Billy Williams, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. At the time a player was allowed to choose which team's cap would be memorialized on his Hall of Fame Plaque. Before and after his induction, Hunter spoke highly of his experiences with both the Athletics and Yankees and his appreciation for both team owners, Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner. For this reason, he refused to choose a team and thus the plaque depicts him with no insignia on the cap.
An annual softball event is held in Hertford in memory of Hunter. All proceeds from the weekend benefit ALS research. The tournament has raised over $100,000 since 1999.