Ex-Senate staffer: Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning has died

Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher-turned conservative politician who represented Kentucky for two terms in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday, his son said. Bunning tweeted "Heaven got its No 1 starter today". The family did not disclose the cause of death. The AP confirmed the death with Bunning's former chief of staff, Jon Deuser. The nine-time All-Star, one of 23 players in major-league history to throw a ideal game in the modern era, was selected to the Hall in 1996 by the Veteran's Committee. He threw two no-hitters, becoming the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National League.

Bunning decided not to run for re-election in the 2010 race, instead endorsing tea party favorite and current U.S. Sen.

Upon his retirement, Bunning returned to his native Kentucky, trading the pitching mound for the bully pulpit.

The gritty right-hander pitched 17 years in the majors, earning eight All-Star nods, and served 12 years as a US senator from his native Kentucky.

Prior to his political career, he pitched for several Major League Baseball teams from 1955 to 1971, and is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Deuser said Bunning was in hospice care when he died.

During his storied pro career, Bunning, an imposing 6-foot, 3-inch right-hander, developed a reputation as combative and unafraid to hit or brush back a batter who was crowding the plate. With the Phillies, he pitched a flawless game against the Mets in Shea Stadium on June 21, 1964. His tenure in the Senate was marked by his contentious relationship with fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell, as reported by Time in 2009. In 1996, the Baseball Writers' Association veterans committee voted him into the Hall of Fame. "This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a flawless game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky, and a loving family". He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. "He also supported legislation to aid adoptive parents and was known for actively working on local Kentucky issues and, whenever they came before Congress, baseball-related issues". "From his days in the major leagues to his years as my colleague in the Senate - and the many points in between, from the City Council to the House of Representatives - Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure", McConnell wrote.

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