Jim Bunning throws a perfect game on Father’s Day to beat the New York Mets

Written by: Cady Lowery

Shea Stadium was a sauna on June 21, 1964. But Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning only got better as the day got hotter.

On that muggy day in Queens, N.Y., 32,026 fans witnessed the seventh perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Bunning retired all 27 Mets on just 90 pitches to complete the first regular season perfect game since 1922, beating New York 6-0.

It was also Father’s Day, and the then-father of seven was able to keep the heat from getting to him.

“He was really silly,” teammate and catcher Gus Triandos told the Sporting News after the game. “He was jabbering like a magpie on the bench.”

“I do that to take my mind off how hot it is,” Bunning said. “It helps keep me loose.”

Watching from the crowd was Bunning’s oldest daughter, Barbara, and his wife, Mary. The two had made the trek from Cherry Hill, N.J., to see Bunning pitch that special day.

Bunning’s consistency and intimidation, two attributes he was known for, were on full display in June of 1964. He struck out 10 Mets total, fanning six batters in the last three innings of the game.

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The Phillies were up 2-0 going into the fifth inning when Bunning started to realize he and his teammates could do something special.

“I started thinking about it around the fifth inning,” Bunning told the Chicago Tribune. “By then, you know you’ve got a chance. Yes, I talked about it. I talked about it during my last one, too. That way you’re not so disappointed if you don’t get it.”

Johnny Callison homered in the top of the sixth to add to the Phillies’ lead, making it 3-0. Gus Triandos added a run with a single to leftfield, scoring Tony Taylor. Bunning then helped his own cause when he doubled, driving in a pair of runs to make it 6-0.

Mets pinch hitter John Stephenson struck out swinging to end the game, reserving Bunning’s spot in baseball history.

Bunning’s previous masterpiece was a no-hitter on July 20, 1958, when he led the Tigers to a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Just 32 at the time of his perfect game, Bunning became the first pitcher to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues. His pitching gem was also the first National League perfect game in the 20th century.

“Everything has to come together – good control, outstanding plays from your teammates, a whole lot of good fortune on your side and a lot of bad luck for the other guys. A million things could go wrong – but on this one particular day of your life none of them do,” Bunning shared in Frank Dolson’s biography of him.

Since Bunning was perfect against the Mets, there have been 16 perfect games thrown, the most recent tossed by Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on August 15, 2012.

At the time of Bunning’s retirement in 1971, he was second on the all-time strikeout list at 2,855. He also amassed 1,000 strikeouts and 100 wins in both leagues, becoming the second person to do so since Cy Young.

Bunning, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996, passed away on May 26, 2017.


Cady Lowery is the 2017 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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