100 Greatest Phillies: 14 – Jim Bunning – Phillies Nation
100 Greatest Phillies

100 Greatest Phillies: 14 – Jim Bunning

Jim Bunning
Starting Pitcher
1964-1967, 1970-1971

Career w/Phillies: 1520.2 IP / 89-73 / 2.92 ERA / 1197 K

Four incredible seasons make Jim Bunning one of the greatest Phillies of all time. Let’s see: ERAs of 2.63, 2.60, 2.41 and 2.29. Win totals of 19, 19, 19 and 17. Strikeout totals of 219, 268, 252 and 253. That’s just dominant. Bunning came to the Phillies through a trade – at the time he was entering his 30s and had a tough 1963 with the Tigers. The Phils took a gamble on Bunning and came out victorious; the right-hander was in the NL top 10 in ERA, wins, strikeouts per nine innings, WHIP, hits per nine innings, shutouts, complete games and strikeouts every season during his first Phillie tenure. Hilariously, he led the league in hit batsmen every season, too. Because of his amazing consistency it’s hard to pick a best season. Maybe that 1964 season, when he finished 19-8. Or 1965, when he struck out a career-high 268 batters. Or 1966, when he threw a career-high 314 innings yet kept his ERA below 2.50. Or is it 1967, when he slung a crazy-low 2.29 ERA? Back in that ’64 season Bunning threw a Father’s Day perfect game. Talk about beautiful moments. The Phils traded Bunning to Pittsburgh after 1967, getting Don Money in return. But Bunning would come back in 1970, going 10-15. He had one more season left in him, finishing with a brutal 5-12 record and 5.48 ERA. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, and his No. 14 is retired by the Phillies. Today Bunning is the junior senator in Kentucky, and while he’s made his share of controversial comments, he’ll always be a superb right-hander in our eyes.

Comment: Okay, so Bunning has a retired number and is a Hall of Famer. But brass tacks: He had just four great seasons with the Phillies. Sure, they were amazing seasons, but there were merely four of them. His final run in Philly actually stained his mark a tad. That all said, I think it’s pretty appropriate Bunning is ranked where he is. And he is a living Phillies legend.



  1. Danny Kane

    March 13, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Bunning is the Jr. senator, not the senior FYI.

  2. ashmidt

    March 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    jim bunning was awesome. i lived and died with the 64 phils, bunnings first yr in the nl, i watched the whole perfect game, he won 19 games, i am pretty sure he lost 5 games 1 to 0.that was when ace pitched against ace . 24 wins might have won him the mvp, it would have put the phils in the world series. i think we got him from the tigers because he was a player rep. in the al. those guys didnt have agents back then, they did thier own negotiating, and you had to be prepared to get what was due to you.well deserving of the hof, did he go in as a phillie ? great father also, i think he had 10 or 12 children.

  3. bikewobble

    March 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    he’s also one of america’s five worst senators according to time magazine. he is reviled by both parties!

  4. Jim

    March 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Excellent choice. He is a perfect example of how a short tenure can hurt quality seasons in these rankings.

    also, jim bunning is the JUNIOR senator from kentucky, he has not served as long as mitch mcconnell. he is however, older than mitch mcconnell, which i guess is where u guys got mixed up.


  5. bikewobble

    March 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    bunning has only been a senator since 99 i think, so he’s the junior.

  6. Adam Eaton

    March 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Mitch McConnell is the senior senator. He’s been in the Senate since 1984. Bunning’s been in since ’98.

    Jim Bunning is the man both on the mound and in politics! He threw plenty of great games for the Phillies and he fought the tax and spend ways of the beltway. Bunning gets a gold star in my book.

  7. Fran

    March 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    ahhhh there goes my top 10

  8. BurrGundy

    March 13, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Bunning was indeed a great Phillie. And Tim, as usual displayed his potent pen in his write-up. HE DESERVES TO BE ON THIS LIST. One thing that blows my mind is that Louis Tiant, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Mickey Lolich — are NOT in the HOF despite having more wins and better records. Perhaps Bunning’s political pull helped put him over the top in the voting. Moreover, ‘bikewobble’ is correct about Bunning’s ineptitude as a senator. A republican friend of mine from Kentucky (same party as Bunning) is actually ashamed of the man. Maybe we have too many Bunning-types in both houses and that is the cause of many of our problems. Sorry for the political commentary.

  9. BurrGundy

    March 13, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Bert Blyleven is another pitcher deserving HOF designation and was better than Bunning.

  10. Jim

    March 13, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Blyleven will get there. He just is not a first balloter, or in this case a 5th balloter. He has a great shot at making it next year. Its not like bunning was elected on his first ballott

  11. James Kay

    March 13, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Bunning was in my top 10 because I was biased by my good fortune to have seen him pitch during his halcyon Philadelphia years from 1964 thru 1967. He threw one of the most picturesque curve balls I have ever seen. His deceptive sweeping delivery also featured a sneaky fast ball and a hard slider. All his pitches were thrown with pin point control. His American League and National League numbers are interestingly symmetrical and they are both outstanding. In both leagues he was an all star, and he won more than 100 games in each league. He also threw a no hitter in both leagues, one of only 5 pitchers to accomplish that feat. Can you name the other 4 quickly?

    Despite his good control he consistently was among the leaders in hit batsmen for his entire career. This was no fluke. He had a reputation for being a very sore loser who would not hesitate to plunk the opposition after being light up. While pitching for Detroit in Baltimore early in his career, he was given the ignominious name “Buckles” Bunning because of his penchant to cut the ball with his belt buckle. Many of his current political enemies still use this name to antagonize him. Let us not forget his failure to become a Phillies manager because of his inability to establish a rapport with his players due to his overbearing personality. I think Jim believed Leo Durocher’s statement that nice guys finish last.

    Bunning’s HOF induction speech was a good one. I was impressed with the recognition he gave to most of his former teammates, and when he mentioned that his best years were spent in a Phillies uniform. Did anyone count the number of Jim Bunnings who stood up when he asked his family to rise in the audience? The # 14 ranking is no disgrace.

  12. Griffin

    March 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I had him 9th. Damn.

  13. BurrGundy

    March 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    No hitters in each league —- Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Hideo Nomo (and I think) David cone

  14. Jeff

    March 13, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I have to be a little critical on this one. Even if it was only four years, it was four great and defining years which helped trigger a resurgence of Phillies fever. He was a remarkable pitcher during a tremendous decade for Major League Baseball. I had him in my top ten. You have to look past just statistics. Bunning was the steady veteran for the coming of age youngsters that were the mid-sixties Phillies. Now, if I find out that Richie Allen isn’t in the top ten……………………………………………….

  15. Jim

    March 13, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Jeff, dont forget that his four good seasons were at the height of the last “dead ball” era resurgence of the sixties. the mound height was raised and the strike zone widened during his four year escapade.

    Also, his era plus numbers of 132,134,148, and 149 are certainly respectable, they are not mindblowing. for comparison, cole hamels 3.01 era last year earned him a 145 era. in 2004, johan got a 2.61 spot for an incredible 182

  16. Memphis

    March 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Bunning also pitched only 6 of his 17 seasons with the Phils.

    Compare him to Schilling (Phillies stats only, per mlb.com): Curt, in only 18 more starts as a Phillie, had 357 more Ks, 12 more wins, and only 4 fewer complete games, which is pretty remarkable with the status of relief pitchers now. Bunning beats Schilling, as a Phillie, in ERA (2.93 to 3.35) and shutouts (23 to 14). They are remarkable even in several categories, including WHIP (1.11 for Bunning, 1.12 for Schilling), Opponents BA (.287 for Bunning, .283 for Schilling), K/BB ratio (3.64 for Bunning, 3.74 for Schilling) and Hits per 9 (8.06 for Bunning, 7.83 for Schilling). Also, Bunning (and Short) led the Phils to a brink of a pennant in ’64. Schilling led us to the Series in ’93. I’m actually pleased to see Schilling ranked ahead of Bunning, slightly ahead I assume.

  17. ashmidt

    March 14, 2009 at 4:28 am

    on the t v show cheers, theres a photo of a pitcher on the bar that was supposed to be sam may day malone, i am pretty sure it was jim bunnings follow through. can anyone confirm this ?

  18. Del

    March 14, 2009 at 8:05 am

    The photo in Cheers is actually of Jim Lonborg.

  19. Mr. Phil

    March 14, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I will pay attention to Cheers the next time I see it on reruns (if it’s even on air currently) to see if Bunning’s photo is on the bar. I remember Bunning losing five or six 1-0 games in one of those years he won 19 games. I’m pretty sure it was NOT 1964.

    Good ranking of Bunning here. Yes, he is remembered as a Phillie more than a Tiger (although very good in Detroit). I recall that he was not a good fielding pitcher because he “fell” off the mound after his delivery, a very dangerous position for a pitcher with hits back through the box.

    We are in elite company now. Richie Allen, Curt Schilling, and of course the Mount Rushmore of Schmidt, Carlton, Ashburn, and Roberts.

    … I will have to read more about Bunning’s senatorial career. Interesting information on these posts.

  20. Ed R.

    March 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Tiant, Kaat, Lolich and John shouldn’t be HOFers. With luck, Blyleven won’t make it either. In fact, Bunning shouldn’t be there to serve as a basis of comparison. Again, this is what happens when you let good but not great players into the HOF; the standard gets lower and lower.

    I like Memphis’ post comparing Bunning with Schilling. Good work, and don’t forget that Bunning was pitching with the higher mound so his stats would tend to be better. Schilling is a clear pick over Bunning.

  21. Jeff

    March 14, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Ah, the overrated Curt Schilling. Obviously, he is going to be overrated on this list, also. Before Tim even gets to him, go back and take a look at his stats. See how many years he was a Phillie and how many good years he had. Eight and a half seasons; 2 dominant years, 3 decent years, and 3 and a half mediocre to lousy years. As a Phillie, he is living off the 93 postseason. Bunning had more dominant years in relation to his Phillies tenure. Not even close. Schilling had his two 300 strikeout years and the 93 year. His name was cemented in Arizona and Boston. Bunning had his 4 big years, was traded, then came back to wind up his career. He was so revered that he was chosen to open the Vet even though Wise was their #1 pitcher.

  22. James Kay

    March 14, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Memphis & Jeff, You both presented very compelling arguments. One touting more the objective statistical achievements while the other emphasizing more the team value. Given the closeness of their Phillie numbers and the good probability that more fans could relate more to Bunning than to Schilling, I give my nod to Bunning ahead of Schilling.

  23. Chuck P

    March 14, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I had Bunning higher because his number is retired and because he is in the Hall of Fame… there aren’t too many Phillies with their numbers retired. I don’t think that he deserves to be in the Hall but the fact that his number is retired says something about his body of work as a Phillie… I guess Schilling will be higher and I don’t agree with that (hoping that he’s not top 10). They are good to compare. Frankly, I thought that Bunning would be a lock for top 10 on your list (because he’s one of the few Phillies in the HOF)… if I wasn’t trying to match my list with yours, I wouldn’t have had him in my personal top 10. I’m glad that people see it my way.

  24. Memphis

    March 14, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Schilling’s “medicore to lousy” years?

    ’94: hurt, strike

    ’95: from mlb.com: was 4-0 with a 2.69 ERA through his first 9 starts before suffering his first loss in June, shut down 6 weeks later with shoulder surgery…was among the N.L. leaders in innings, strikeouts and average against

    ’96: from mlb.com: despite missing 6 weeks from previous season’s surgery, he went on to lead the league with 8 complete games, including a pair of shutouts…finished 9-10 with a 3.19 ERA in 26 starts

    ’00: not a great half year before being traded, but his last start as a Phillie was a complete-game 3-hitter in a 4-1 win

    My take is that Bunning was a good but not great pitcher before the mound was raised, made hay with the mound raised (the “Era of the Pitcher”), and then went right back to being good but not great after the mound was lowered… and Schilling pitched in the steroid era and also on some truly awful teams. So the stats, while even in many respects, actually favor Schilling. And he also pitched well in the clutch, when he had the chance too. Hard to fault him for performing well in the most important games, or for pitching well for other teams.

    Not sure how Schilling is overrated. Personally, I think Bunning lives off the perfect game. And it’s always puzzled me a little why his number is retired — it seems to be more about his popularity. Short even had a better ERA/ERA+ in ’64.

    Bunning had 4 great career years, no doubt, but you may want to give Schilling some more credit.

  25. Chuck P

    March 14, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Great argument, Memphis…

    I will admit that there’s probably a huge bias against Schilling because of his personality and the fact that he lobbied so hard to leave this city. It’s tough for us, as Phillies fans, to give Schilling “his due” while he’s still pitching. Once he retires, maybe we all feel the same way you do. I think that Bunning is overrated… I said as much… but he’s still in the Hall and his number is still retired. That has to count for something, right?

  26. Jeff

    March 14, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Raised mound? Take a look at the rosters in the National League from 1964 to 1968. I don’t care how high the mound was or the size of the strike zone. You had to be a terrific pitcher to navigate through those lineups. Add to that , the fact that Bunning was usually up against Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson, Simmons, Perry, Sadecki, Law, Veale, Cuellar, and in 1967, up and coming young guns Fergie Jenkins, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. The nineties did not present anything near this list of foes for Schilling.
    And you can give me all the excuses you want for Schilling’s mediocre years, but, there they are, to be considered in his Phillie body of work. The fact is, he didn’t become the Curt Schilling we know until the two 300 K years. In 1993, although a 16 game winner, he was very inconsistent until the postseason where he was, indeed, spectacular. I remember a big game against the Cardinals when he was getting pummelled and Daulton had to go out to the mound and rip him a new rear end. And, also, his teammates hated him, and he was a shameless self-promoter who whined his way out of town.
    No, sorry, Bunning should definitely be higher than Schilling on this list. He was #8 on mine.

  27. Woodman

    March 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Bunning over Schilling…. by far!

  28. Memphis

    March 14, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    We just disagree, Jeff. I admit my view may be in the minority, but I regard Schilling as a warrior, not a whiner. That shutout right after the heart-wrenching 15-14 WS game was epic. But he isn’t the “Curt Schilling we know” until ’97 when he wins 17 of the Phils 68 wins that forgettable year (you want to talk about importance to a team, he WAS the team)? How many does he win if we’re good at all? And he cements his legacy with other teams, even though Bunning was a 5-time All-star in 9 years with Detroit? Frankly, I feel that Rolen and Schilling speaking out pushed a then-listless organization to finally start to take some action around 2000 (bringing in Thome in 2003, for example), though it can be debated if they truly took action or just got lucky with Rollins, Utley, Howard, Hamels, etc. I never blamed them for speaking out. As opposed to someone like Abreu who was happy to hit .300 even though we’d lose 80 games.

    Chuck P — The retired 14 and HOF count for a lot, absolutely, though I was a little surprised by the retired number, considering numbers that are not retired (and, like Klein, names that are not “retired” like Delahanty, Hamilton, Thompson, Magee). I’m not arguing against Bunning’s placement at 14, not at all. When filling out my Top 10, I looked at the 10 HOF guys and at career numbers as a Phillie (where Short, Ennis, Magee tend to stand out), not just 4-5 great years, and I was actually VERY surprised to see Bunning and Schilling as even as they were. On that basis, I took Bunnng out of my Top 10 and gave Schill the slight edge based partly on the fact that he played longer as a Phillie and in a hitter friendly era. Even so, I would put Bunning ahead of Abreu and slightly ahead of Allen. I would also have put Ennis and Short higher than they were ranked, but again my bias was for career numbers as a Phillie.

    This list is great for debates and (for me) just learning more about Phillies history.

  29. Jeff

    March 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Yeah, I didn’ want to come off as argumentative, but I saw both pitch. I don’t know if you did. Bunning was a true professional, nasty pitcher with a chip on his shoulder. During those four years with the Phils he was dominant. I just feel his Phillies excellence was more sustained. He should have been in the Hall a lot sooner than he was. Take a look at Catfish Hunter’s numbers. They are almost identical, in fact, Bunning’s might be better. Yet Hunter went in right away

    As far as Rolen and Schilling whining the Phils into active spending. Everybody knows that was more a product of Citizens Bank Park. The Phils couldn’t do much while tied to the losing situation that was Veterans Stadium..

  30. Chuck P

    March 14, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Bunning was the hardest for me to rank… I understand both sides of the argument.

  31. Memphis

    March 14, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Hey, it’s cool, it’s a good debate. Knowing there were only 7 retired Phillies, my first assumption was Bunning would be in the Top 7. But we’re gonna have 5 guys in the Top 12 who played before 1945, only 2 of which are “retired numbers.” Pretty neat. I think Abreu will be a lively debate, wherever he falls.

    Where would you rank Bunning vs. Allen?

  32. Jeff

    March 14, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I had Allen seventh and Bunning eighth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Phillies Nation has been bringing Phillies fans together since 2004 with non-stop news, analysis, trade rumors, trips, t-shirts, and other fun stuff!

Browse the Archives

Browse by Category

Copyright Phillies Nation, LLC 2004-2016
Not Affiliated with Major League Baseball or the Philadelphia Phillies

To Top