Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher and U.S. lawmaker, dead at 85

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher who parlayed his sports fame into a political career as an uncompromising advocate for conservative causes, has died. He was 85.


Bunning’s death Friday was confirmed by Jon Deuser, who served as chief of staff when the Kentucky Republican was in the Senate. Deuser said Saturday he was notified about the death by Bunning’s family.

Bunning, who won 224 games in a 17-year major-league career, mostly with the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies, pitched the first perfect game in modern National League history and became the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.

Known as a no-nonsense pitcher who threw hard and knocked batters down when necessary, the big right-hander belonged to a rare group of major league pitchers to throw a perfect game in the modern era.

He retired from baseball in 1971, and then carried his success to politics.

Bunning served 12 years in the U.S. House, followed by two terms in the Senate. He was a fierce protector of state interests such as tobacco, coal and its military bases. Bunning decided not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2010. Republican Rand Paul rode a tea party wave that year to win the seat.

His ornery nature prompted Republican leaders to push him to retire as a senator. As his political party soured on him, Bunning pushed back. At one point, he threatened to sue the party’s national campaign arm if it backed a primary challenger. But in July 2009…

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