It was only fitting that Jim Bunning, then a father of seven, would do something special when he took the mound at Shea Stadium on Father's Day, June 21, 1964, for the first game of a Sunday doubleheader.
The slender right-hander entered the record book by throwing a perfect game against the New York Mets on that Sunday afternoon, 6-0. It was the first one in the National League since Monte Ward, pitching for Providence, blanked Buffalo, 5-0, on June 17, 1880.
Fifty years ago, Bunning struck out 10, including pinch-hitter John Stephenson to end the masterpiece. Of the 89 pitches he threw, only 21 were out of the strike zone. Offensively, he drove in a pair of the runs with a double.
The only potential hit was wiped out by a sensational diving stop by second baseman Tony Taylor of a drive by Jesse Gonder in the fifth inning. Taylor knocked down the line drive, crawled after the ball and got Gonder at first base.
Generally when a pitcher is working on a no-hitter, it is a no-no for players to talk about it on the bench, especially the pitcher.
In his book, "Jim Bunning, Baseball and Beyond," written by Frank Dolson, Bunning and his teammates talked at length about his approach during the game. "The other guys thought I was crazy, but I didn't want anyone tightening up. Most of all, I didn't want to tighten up myself," said Bunning in the book.
Triandos said, "He was really silly. He was jabbering like a magpie."
Callison added, "It was the strangest thing. You don't talk when you have a no-hitter, right? But he was going up and down the bench and telling everybody what was going on. Everybody tried to get away from him, but he was so wired that he followed us around."
With two outs away from immortality, Bunning called Triandos to the mound. According to Triandos, "He calls me out and says I should tell him a joke or something, just to give him a breather. I couldn't think of any, I just laughed at him."
Up stepped George Altman as a pinch-hitter, someone Bunning figured would get to hit. With a 1-2 count, Bunning recorded his ninth strikeout. That brought up a second straight left-handed pinch-hitter, Stephenson with a .074 average.
"I knew if I got Stephenson up there with two out, I had it," recalled Bunning. "I knew I could get him out on curveballs, no matter what."
Curveballs are all Stephenson saw. Swing and a miss, strike two looking, curveball outside, another one outside, then a swing and a miss to end the game. Twenty-seven down and none to go.
Bunning pounded his fist into his glove and his teammates flooded the field while Mets fans stood and cheered. Mary Bunning and their oldest daughter, Barbara, had driven to NY for the game. Mary was ushered to the field to hug and kiss her husband. A postgame dinner was planned but that didn't happen until they were riding on the New Jersey Turnpike back to Philly late that night.
Bunning got a phone call, not from President Lyndon B. Johnson, but from Ed Sullivan, host of a very popular TV show that aired live on Sunday nights out of New York. Bunning appeared on the show and received $1,000.
"We added a pool and bathhouse to our home in Kentucky," he said.
Bunning became the second pitcher in baseball history with a no-hitter in each league, joining Hall of Famer Cy Young. His first no-hitter was 3-0 over the Red Sox in Fenway Park, July 20, 1958, while pitching for the Detroit Tigers. He walked two and struck out 12. Last out was a fly to right by Ted Williams. Ironically, that historic game also was the first game of a Sunday doubleheader.
Larry Shenk is the vice president of Alumni Relations for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.