Pitcher/politician Jim Bunning passes

Former Major League Baseball pitcher turned Congressman, Jim Bunning, died on Saturday. He was 85.

Bunning was born in Northern Kentucky, on October 23, 1931. He went to high school at the Jesuit-run St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, where he excelled in basketball, football and baseball.

After college, Bunning attended Cincinnati’s Xavier University on a basketball scholarship but continued playing other sports. After his freshman year, the Detroit Tigers signed him to a $150-a-month contract, with a clause allowing him to miss spring training until he finished college.

Bunning completed his degree in three-and-a-half years. While in college, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catherine Theis.

Bunning played 17 seasons in the majors with the Detroit Tigers (1955-63), Philadelphia Phillies (1964-67, 1970-71), Pittsburgh Pirates (1968-69) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1969). The big right-hander pitched his first no-hitter while with the Tigers in 1958, defeating the Boston Red Sox. Then on June 21,1964, during his first season with the Phillies, Bunning pitched a perfect game against the New York Mets. It was only the seventh perfect game in major league history.

Bunning, who threw sidearm, credited his slider and his consistency for his success. He was named to the All-Star team nine times, and retired in 1971 with a 224-184 record. He finished his career with a 3.27 ERA and 2,855 strikeouts, which at the time put him in second place on the all-time list behind Walter Johnson. He is currently 17th on the all-time strikeout list.

The Phillies elected Bunning to their Wall of Fame in 1984, and later retired his uniform number,14, in 2001. Bunning was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

After retiring from baseball, Bunning, managed minor league teams for five years before returning to his home in Kentucky and turning his attention toward politics. A Republican, Bunning was first elected to office in 1977, as a member of the Fort Thomas (Kentucky) City Council, where he served for two years before running for and winning a seat in the Kentucky Senate.

In 1986, Bunning won the election for Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District and served in the House of Representatives for six terms. Then in 1998, he won the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Minority Whip Wendell Ford. Bunning served two terms in the Senate.

Bunning’s time in the Senate was not without controversy. He was a very outspoken conservative, and often butted heads with others in his party. In July 2009, Bunning blamed fellow Republicans for mounting attacks against him that dried up his fund-raising efforts, forcing him to abandon his campaign for the 2010 election. He then threw his support behind outsider candidate Rand Paul, who ultimately won the election.

ORU ADVANCES TO NCAA

The ORU Golden Eagles won the Summit League Baseball Championship last weekend, winning three straight games, including a 7-0 shutout over North Dakota State in the title game, to secure the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

Miguel Ausua pitched a gem of a game on Saturday, going the distance, with five strikeouts, no walks, and allowing only five hits in the game. The Puerto Rico native is tied for second in the NCAA in wins with an 11-2 record, and has a paltry 1.67 ERA.

“It seems like (championships) get tougher and tougher,” ORU coach Ryan Folmar said after the game. “I thought North Dakota State had a great year, but proud of our guys, proud of the way they played, and Miguel was special here today. The defense turned a couple of double plays in big moments again today and it was just a good team win for us.”

For his efforts, Ausua was named the tournament MVP, and six members of the ORU squad were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Cal Hernandez led the offense going 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.

ORU (42-14) will play in the NCAA Regionals at Fayetteville, Arkansas. Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri State are in that baseball regional that will be June 2-5

ORU will play host Arkansas at 7 p.m. Friday.