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Hall-of-Fame baseball pitcher, born James Augustus Hunter, on April 8, 1946, on a farm near Hertford, North Carolina. 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 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.
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